|The Phillis Wheatley Monument|
in Boston, Massachusetts
Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American to publish a book of poetry, was probably born in 1753 or 1754, somewhere in western Africa. At roughly 7 years old, captured by slave-traders.
Considered too sickly for hard labor plantations in the Caribbean or Southern U.S. colonies, she became a domestic servant for the Wheatley family in Boston. Though they kept slaves, the Wheatley’s were relatively progressive; after witnessing Phillis copying the alphabet in chalk, instead of punishing her, they decided to cultivate her academic interests. During a period when some states outlawed teaching slaves to read, Phillis was studying Alexander Pope and John Milton. Actually, the education she received from the Wheatley’s was superior even to most Caucasian males’.
|Phillis’ first, and only, book of poetry|
circulated during her lifetime was
Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral
To learn more about Phillis’ remarkable early life, rise to literary prominence, and tragic descent into poverty, check-out these resources:
Entry for Phillis Wheatley at Biography.com
Entry for Phillis Wheatley at Poetry Foundation, article written by Sondra A. O'Neale, Emory University
The Hand of America's First Black Female Poet, news story from NPR
The Phillis Wheatley Monument, article from Black Art Depot Today