Thursday, February 07, 2008

Phillis Wheatley 1st Published African American Poet

Wikipedia: Phillis Wheatley, as illustrated by Scipio Moorhead in the Frontispiece to her book Poems on Various Subjects.Phillis Wheatley (1753 – December 5, 1784) was the first published African American poet whose writings helped create the genre of African American literature. She was born in Gambia, Africa, and became a slave at age seven. She was purchased by the Boston Wheatley family, who taught her to read and write, and helped encouraged her poetry.

The 1773 publication of Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, brought her fame, with dignitaries such as George Washington praising her work. Wheatley also toured England and was praised in a poem by fellow African American poet Jupiter Hammon. Wheatley was emancipated by her owners after her poetic success, but stayed with the Wheatley family until the death of her former master and the breakup of his family. She then married a free black man, who soon left her. She died in poverty in 1784 while working on a second book of poetry, which has now been lost.

Renascence Editions:
The following is a Copy of a LETTER sent
by the Author's Master to the Publisher.

PHILLIS was brought from Africa to America, in the Year 1761, between seven and eight Years of Age. Without any Assistance from School Education, and by only what she was taught in the Family, she, in sixteen Months Time from her Arrival, attained the English language, to which she was an utter Stranger before, to such a degree, as to read any, the most difficult Parts of the Sacred Writings, to the great Astonishment of all who heard her.
As to her WRITING, her own Curiosity led her to it; and this she learnt in so short a Time, that in the Year 1765, she wrote a Letter to the Rev. Mr. OCCOM, the Indian Minister, while in England.

She has a great Inclination to learn the Latin Tongue, and has made some Progress in it. This Relation is given by her Master who bought her, and with whom she now lives.


Boston, Nov. 14, 1772.

e-text Renascence Editions Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by
Phillis Wheatley

  • To the Publick
  • To Mæcenas
  • On Virtue
  • To the University of Cambridge, in New England
  • To the King's Most Excellent Majesty
  • On being brought from Africa
  • On the Rev. Dr. Sewell
  • On the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield
  • On the Death of a young Lady of five Years of Age
  • On the Death of a young Gentleman
  • To a Lady on the Death of her Husband
  • Goliath of Gath
  • Thoughts on the Works of Providence
  • To a Lady on the Death of three Relations
  • To a Clergyman on the Death of his Lady
  • An Hymn to the Morning
  • An Hymn to the Evening
  • On Isaiah lxiii. 1------8
  • On Recollection
  • On Imagination
  • A Funeral Poem on the Death of an Infant aged twelve Months
  • To Captain H. D. of the 65th Regiment
  • To the Right Hon. William, Earl of Dartmouth
  • Ode to Neptune
  • To a Lady on her coming to North America with her Son, for the Recovery of her Health
  • To a Lady on her remarkable Preservation in a Hurricane in North Carolina
  • To a Lady and her Children, on the Death of her Son and their Brother.
  • To a Gentleman and Lady on the Death of the Lady's Brother and Sister, and a
    Child of the Name of Avis, aged one Year.
  • On the Death of Dr. Samuel Marshall
  • To a Gentleman on his Voyage to Great-Britain, for the Recovery of his Health
  • To the Rev. Dr. Thomas Amory on reading his Sermons on Daily Devotion, in which that Duty is recommended and assisted
  • On the Death of J. C. an Infant
  • An Hymn to Humanity
  • To the Hon. T. H. Esq; on the Death of his Daughter
  • Niobe in Distress for her Children slain by Apollo, from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book VI, and from a View of the Painting of Mr. Richard Wilson
  • To S. M. a young African Painter, on seeing his Works
  • To his Honour the Lieutenant-Governor, on the Death of his Lady
  • A Farewel to America
  • A Rebus by I. B.
  • An Answer to ditto, by Phillis Wheatley

  • George Wallace stated: “Phillis Wheatley accomplishments aside, and they are impressive, she is not considered the first published African-American poet in America. That title goes to Jupiter Hammon.”

    So to be Politically correct Binding Ink states: Phillis Wheatley 1st Published Female African American Poet

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    Writeonbro said...

    Glad to see I'm not the only blogger with Black history post this month.n It's cats like Langston Hughes and modern women like Maya Angelou that can evoke the greatest emotions inside of your heart and head.

    ndpthepoetress - Jeane Michelle Culp said...

    Hello Writeonbro, Thank You for your comment. I'd have to say you are 'righton' about these many other wonderful Poets! I'm looking forward to reading your current Black History Month post, African-American Art Exhibit in Midtown and reading more posts on your blog sites, Brother to Brother and MIDTOWN LIVE.

    Shinade said...

    Oh I am so glad that you brought this to my attention.

    I am ashamed to say that I was not aware that it is Black History month.

    I have heard of Phyllis Wheatly...but, must admit that I have not read any of her works.

    Thank you so much Jeane for this wonderful post simply filled to the brim with information and wonderful links!!

    ndpthepoetress - Jeane Michelle Culp said...

    Hi Shinade, Always nice to hear from you! Don’t feel ashamed, this is why People post about Black History Month – to bring more awareness. Though admittedly, this year does seem to be slow in promoting such a memorable event, even at my place of employment. I’m glad you liked my post Shinade (Jackie), I appreciate you :)