Phillis Wheatley

Poet Phillis Wheatley (1753?–1784), probably born in the Senegambia region of Africa, was just about eight years old when she was purchased directly from a slave trade ship in Boston harbor by John Wheatley, a tailor, and his wife Suzannah. She was named for a schooner—for the ship that took her away from her Fulani people and brought her to Boston Harbor. Although she worked as a domestic enslaved servant for the Wheatley family, she defied the notion that Africans had no mental capacity by writing Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley, Negro Servant to Mr. John Wheatley, of Boston, in New England (London, 1773), the first book ever published by an African American. She became the second American woman to have a book of verse published. Phillis gained her freedom in 1774.

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