Phillis Wheatley

1753-1784

On Being Brought From Africa to America

Phillis Wheatley was born in where today is Senegal or Gambia, she was captured and sold into slavery at the age of 8. Phillis was brought to America in 1760 where John and Susannah Wheatley of Boston, Massachusetts purchased her .Then she converted to the Christian faith. The family of merchants made sure that Phillis received a good education, including study of Latin, Greek, mythology and history. She quickly mastered the English language.

Phillis published her first poem in the Newport, Rhode Island, "Mercury" on December 21, 1767. In 1770 she wrote a poetic tribute on the death of the Calvinist George Whitefield that received widespread acclaim in Boston. Her poetry was praised by many of the leading figures of the American Revolution, including George Washington, who referred to her "great poetical Genius" and personally thanked her for a poem she wrote in his honor. In 1772 Phillis went to court to defend herself because most people did not thing she was intelligently skilled enough to do those things.

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On Being Brought From Africa to America

"Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,

Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:

Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

"Their color is a diabolic die."

Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,

May be refined and join the angelic train.

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