Phillis Wheatley Facts

Phillis Wheatley Facts
Phillis Wheatley was the first African-American female poet to be published. It is believed that Phillis Wheatley was born in West Africa in 1753, which today would be Senegal or Gambia. She was brought to the United States as a slave in 1761 aboard a ship called 'The Phillis'. She was bought by a wealthy family in Boston and given their surname Wheatley. They also named her Phillis because that was the name of the boat she came to America aboard. The Wheatley family educated her in a manner uncommon for slaves, let alone female slaves. She proved to be an excellent scholar and the Wheatley's encouraged her to pursue writing and allowed her to abandon her slave labor duties. Her 1773 book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral made her the most famous African in the world at the time.
Interesting Phillis Wheatley Facts:
John Wheatley purchased Phillis as a slave for his wife Susanna. Phillis had been kidnapped in Africa and brought to America to be sold.
Despite the fact that she was supposed to be a slave to Susanna, Susanna chose to educate the young girl instead. Phillis' health was not very good, and her intelligence was difficult to ignore.
Susanna Wheatley and her husband John, and their own children all played a role in Phillis' education. They taught her to read and write and she studied Latin, Greek, English, Ancient history, literature, and mythology.
By the time Phillis was 12 she published her first poem. It was published in the Newport Mercury. Its title was On Messrs. Hussey and Coffin.
Phillis' fame began to grow as she published her poems. The poem that made her famous was published in 1770 titled An Elegiac Poem, on the Death of that Celebrated Divine, and Eminent Servant of Jesus Christ, the Reverend and Learned George Whitefield.
Her only book was titled Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Publishers in America did not want to publish the book because it was written by a slave.
Susanna Wheatley used her connections in England to get Phillis' book published. It became popular in England and soon it became popular in America in the Thirteen Colonies as well.
While Phillis Wheatley was the first African American to have a book of poems published, she was also the first slave to have one published as well. She was only the 3rd American woman to have a book of poems published.
Phillis traveled to London, England to promote her work, but when she returned to America several of the Wheatley's had died. Susanna died in 1774 and John died in 1778, followed by Mary Wheatley (John and Susanna's daughter) the same year.
When John Wheatley died Phillis was freed, according to his will.
Phillis married a free African-American man named John Peters. They struggled financially, and two infants died at birth.
Phillis tried to publish another book was unsuccessful. Because her work often included subjects on the Revolutionary War, when it ended her career floundered as well.
Phillis' husband was sent to debtors' prison in 1784, and Phillis was left o work as a maid to support her infant son.
Phillis Wheatley died at the age of 31, on December 5th, 1784. Her son died a few hours later.


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