May 8, 1753 (Senegambia, West Africa) - December 5, 1784 (Boston, Massachusetts)
Phillis Wheatley was born in Senegambia, West Africa on May 8, 1753. When Wheatley was 7 years old she was sold into slavery, sent to North America, and purchased by the Wheatley family in Boston. They, being fairly nice to their slaves, taught her to read and write. When they saw that she had a knack for poetry, they encouraged her to keep writing. When her slave owner, John Wheatley, died she was freed. She married not to long afterwards. In 1784, her husband was imprisoned for debt. Soon, she fell into poverty, and died of a sickness on December 5, 1784, soon followed by her only surviving child.
Her work was praised by many people, including George Washington and Jupiter Hammon. She was the second published African-American poet, but the first African-American woman to have her work published. Many white people in that time, did not believe that an African American could be writing such beautiful poetry. So, in 1772, she had to prove she wrote her poems in court. They came to the verdict that she had. When her slave owner died, she was freed.
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 colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.
Phillis Wheatley wrote this poem about being brought from Africa to America. About how even though it was terrible, that she was still able to find Christianity, and a relationship with Christ.