(May, 8th 1753 – December 5th, 1784)
‘Twas mercy brought me from my pagan land, taught my benighted soul to understand, that there’s a God, that there’s a savior too: once i redemption neither sought nor knew. Some view our sable race with scornful eye, “Their color is a diabolic dye.” Remember, christians, negroes, black as cain, may be refin’d, and join angelic train.’
Many may not know her name, but we are all spectators of her influential work. Phillis Wheatley was both, the second African American published poet, and the first African American woman to be published. Born in Senegambia, Wheatley was kidnapped and sold into slavery at age 8. She was purchased by John Wheatley to be a personal servant to his wife, Susana.
The Wheatley’s educated Phillis, and took notice of how rapidly she learned. It wasn’t long before Phillis mastered Latin and greek, and began to write poetry. She published her first poem at the age of 12, and her first volume of poetry, ‘Poems on various subjects, religions and morals.’ Susana Wheatley helped finance publishing for the book; in which seventeen men had to write forwards for, having to prove that Phillis’ work was original.
Going on, she was unsuccessful in finding a publisher for a second volume of poetry, but continued her writing and support for America’s independence.
Phillis Wheatley, we thank you for your words, and your intelligence.