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December 5, 1784
c. 1753 – December 5, 1784
Phillis Wheatley was an American author, considered to be the first African-American author of a published book of poetry. Born in West Africa, she was sold into slavery at the age of seven or eight and transported to North America, where she was bought by the Wheatley family of Boston. After she learned to read and write, they encouraged her poetry when they saw her talent.
“An Elegiac Poem, on the Death of the Celebrated Divine…George Whitefield”, “Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley”, “On Being Brought from Africa to America”, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral”
Her poetry expressed Christian themes, and many poems were dedicated to famous figures. Over one-third consist of elegies, the remainder being on religious, classical, and abstract themes. As the American Revolution gained strength, Wheatley's writing turned to themes that expressed ideas of the rebellious colonists.
Phillis Wheatley accomplished something that no other woman of her status had done. When her book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, appeared, she became the first American slave, the first person of African descent, and only the third colonial American woman to have her work published.
“In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance.”
“Through thickest gloom look back, immortal shade,
On that confusion which thy death has made.”
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