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Yasmine Ali

a literate domestic servant, grew up in Philadelphia and in New York City with her family. While her parents' names remain unknown, in one of her 1859 letters, she revealed that her father owned a restaurant. Brown severed ties with her family after her father's death in October 1862. In her letters to Rebecca Primus, her beloved friend, she discussed how her mother had remarried a man whom Addie described as often present in her nightmares.

Brown is known today primarily because of her relationship to Rebecca Primus of Hartford, Connecticut. Primus was the only African American among the five teachers selected by the Freedman's Society in 1865 to head to the south and start schools for freed blacks. She relocated to Royal, Maryland, and founded a school there, working until 1869 She was an inspirational figure and a close friend to Addie Brown and seems ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Englishpoet who lent his pen to the anti‐slavery cause. Cowper was a supporter of international commerce, which he saw, idealistically, as the means by which mankind could share in God's bounty. In his poem Charity (1782), trade is described as ‘the golden girdle of the globe’, and Cowper writes of the ‘genial intercourse’ between nations effected by 18th‐century mercantile activity. The slave trader, however, betrays the principle of mutuality underpinning international commerce and brings shame to a Christian nation such as Great Britain (‘Canst thou, and honour'd with a Christian name | Buy what is woman‐born, and feel no shame?’). Religion apart, the slave trader also betrays the spirit of the age, its growing championing of liberty. To Cowper, the existence of slavery calls into question the very nature of humanity:

Then what is man? And what man, seeing this

And having human feelings does not blush ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

slave and Civil War soldier, was probably born in the 1820s or early 1830s in Missouri, where he was living in the 1850s, though he may have been brought there from another slave state. What is known about him survives in two letters he wrote in September 1864 to his children and to Kitty Diggs, the Glasgow, Missouri, slaveholder who owned them and his wife, who was perhaps named Caroline. Further information can be found in a 1937 Federal Writers' Project interview of one of Rice's daughters, Mary A. Bell.

Bell's account reveals that Rice worked as a tobacco roller and head slave on Benjamin Lewis's plantation several miles away from the Diggs farm She recalled that her father diligently visited his family twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays the only days Rice s owner permitted him to do so Rice cured Lewis s ...

Article

John Saillant

Sancho was baptized as an infant in a Roman Catholic Church but confirmed as a youth in the Church of England. His baptismal name was Ignatius, while his surname came from his first owners in England, who fancifully named him after Don Quixote's servant in Miguel de Cervantes's famous novel. Charles Ignatius Sancho was the name he used in 1758 to sign his marriage certificate. Two volumes of his letters were gathered from their recipients and published in 1782, prefaced by Joseph Jekyll's Life of Ignatius Sancho; Jekyll undertook this work, from which virtually all biographical information on Sancho derives, after his acquaintance Samuel Johnson, the poet, critic, and compiler of A Dictionary of the English Language, failed to fulfill his intention to write Sancho's biography himself. Additional information survives in vital records, as do a few comments from such contemporaries as Johnson.

Jekyll wrote that ...

Article

Vincent Carretta

author, is now best known for the posthumously published two-volume Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African (London, 1782), edited by Frances Crewe, one of his younger correspondents. Virtually the only source of information about the first thirty years of Sancho’s life is Joseph Jekyll’s anonymously published biographical preface to the Letters According to Jekyll Sancho was born on a slave ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to the Spanish colony of New Granada present day Colombia Jekyll reports that the bishop of Granada baptized him naming him Ignatius Shortly thereafter his mother died of disease and his father committed suicide rather than endure slavery The unnamed owner of the orphan brought him to England when he was two years old and gave him to three unmarried sisters in Greenwich They surnamed him Sancho because they thought that the pudgy toddler resembled the fictional Don Quixote s ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Africanwriter whose letters, published posthumously in 1782, became best‐seller, attracting 1,181 subscribers including the Prime Minister, Lord North.

Sancho was born on board a slave ship en route to the West Indies. His mother died soon after, of a tropical disease, and his father chose to commit suicide rather than endure slavery. Sancho was brought to England by his master, at the age of 2 or 3, and given to three maiden sisters living in Greenwich. The sisters named him Sancho, thinking he resembled Don Quixote's squire. They kept him in ignorance, not teaching him to read or write. He was rescued by the Duke of Montagu who lived nearby in Blackheath The Duke encountering the boy by accident took a liking to his frankness of manner and frequently took him home where the Duchess introduced him to the world of books and of high culture He ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Ignatius Sancho was born on a slave ship en route to the West Indies; both of his parents died during the journey, casualties of the Middle Passage. Never having lived in Africa, Sancho was in many ways a product of Western civilization. His letters, written between 1768 and 1780, and published posthumously in 1782, proved to the English public that an African could not only master the language and literature of England but become a discriminating reader and a discerning critic.

Upon arriving in Britain, Sancho was bought by three sisters in Greenwich who treated him poorly and denied him education. But the sisters' neighbors, the Duke and Duchess of Montague, were impressed by Sancho's curiosity about books and his quick mind and secretly lent him materials to read. In 1749 when the sisters threatened to sell him into American slavery Sancho fled to the ...

Article

Matteo Salvadore

Ethiopian cleric, known in Europe as Zaga Zabo or Tsega Zabo, traveled to Lisbon and Bologna in 1527 as representative of Emperor Dawit II (1508–1540) to King João III (1521–1557). While in Lisbon he drafted a confession of faith that Portuguese humanist Damião de Góis (1502–1574) printed in 1540 as Fides religio moresque Aethiopum sub imperio Preciosi Ioannis degentium. The facts of Tsega Ze’ab’s upbringing remain unknown: when the 1520s Portuguese mission to Ethiopia led by Don Rodrigo de Lima (1500–?) reached Emperor Dawit II’s court, Tsega was already a distinguished cleric helping in the writing and translating of the emperor’s letters to João III, and he was later selected to represent Ethiopia at his court. To this purpose he joined the Portuguese party on its way back to Lisbon, which he reached in 1527 Traveling in the company of the mission s chaplain Francisco Álvares 1465 c ...

Article

Everett Emerson

Born in West Africa, Wheatley as a child of about eight was kidnapped and brought to Boston, where she was purchased by John Wheatley, a prosperous tailor, to be a servant for his wife, Susanna. In the pious household she was given the name Phillis and tutored in both English and Latin as well as the Bible. Admiring the English poets John Milton and Thomas Gray, Alexander Pope's translation of Homer, and the Latin poets Virgil and Ovid, she began to write verse very early; her first poem appeared in a newspaper in 1767. In the early 1770s, having published several of her poems as broadsides that were widely reprinted, she became something of a local celebrity. In 1773 she traveled to London to seek support of her poetry, and while there she met many notables, including Benjamin Franklin. Her forty Poems on Various ...

Article

David Dabydeen

African‐American poet whose first collection of poems was also the first book to be published by a black woman in Britain. Wheatley was transported from Africa to America in 1761 at the age of 8 and purchased in Boston by Susanna Wheatley, the wife of an affluent tailor, John Wheatley. The Wheatleys were considerate in their treatment of their young servant and afforded her a life removed from that of the average slave. She was thus tutored at home in Latin, Greek, English, ancient history, and the Bible, proving herself to be precocious in her ability to read and understand the poetry of Pope and Milton.

Wheatley began to write poetry around the age of 13 and published her first poem, ‘On Messrs. Hussey and Coffin’, in 1767. It was the publication of her eulogy on the English evangelist the Revd George Whitefield in 1770 that made ...

Article

John C. Shields

the first African American and the second woman to publish a book in the colonies on any subject. Phillis Wheatley was born, by her own testimony, in Gambia, West Africa, about the year 1753. Unlike her African American contemporary, Venture Smith, who devoted over a third of his 1798Narrative to a detailed recollection of his African homeland, Wheatley, who was seized and taken into slavery when seven or eight years of age, recalled her homeland to her white captors in considerably less detail. While we may never know what memories this remarkable poet and cultivator of the epistolary style shared of her native Africa with her most frequent correspondent and black soulmate, Obour Tanner, we do know that her public memories were at least three.

She did recall the sight of her mother s daily ritual of pouring out water to the sun upon ...

Article

David L. Dudley

In July 1761, John Wheatley, a prosperous Boston merchant, purchased an African girl as servant for his wife, Susanna The child was named Phillis probably after the vessel that brought her to America and was surnamed after her owners Thus Phillis Wheatley came to a new world where she would achieve fame as a poet The first African American to write a published book Wheatley has been hailed by some as the founding mother of the African American literary tradition but excoriated by others as not sufficiently proud of her blackness or militant enough in the struggle against slavery The critical response to Wheatley s work has been divided from the beginning often reflecting the assumptions prejudices and agendas of her readers In the late twentieth century Wheatley began to receive her due as a poet of genuine if modest gifts one whose accomplishment is all the ...

Article

John C. Shields

poet and cultivator of the epistolary writing style, was born in Gambia, Africa, probably along the fertile lowlands of the Gambia River. She was enslaved as a child of seven or eight and sold in Boston to John and Susanna Wheatley on 11 July 1761. The horrors of the Middle Passage likely contributed to her persistent trouble with asthma. The Wheatleys apparently named the girl, who had nothing but a piece of dirty carpet to conceal her nakedness, after the slaver, the Phillis, that transported her.The Wheatleys were more kindly toward Phillis than were most slaveowners of the time, permitting her to learn to read. The poet in Wheatley soon began to emerge. She published her first poem on 21 December 1765 in the Newport Mercury when she was about twelve The poem On Messrs Hussey and Coffin relates how these two gentlemen narrowly escaped drowning ...

Article

John C. Shields

writer of poetry and epistolary prose, was probably born along the Gambia River in 1753. Her mother and father were almost certainly of the Fulani peoples of West Africa and were members of the aristocracy. Wheatley indicates in her poems that she was well acquainted with animistic ancestor worship, solar worship, and Islam. Her emphasis on the importance of these three faiths recurs throughout her 18 extant elegies. This multiple religious consciousness the young girl of seven or eight brought with her to Boston, where she was, on 11 July 1761, sold on the block “for a trifle” and named by John and Susanna Wheatley “Phillis” after the slave ship The Phillis which brought her In that grotesque and insensitive act of naming Wheatley would thereafter be forced to recall the horrific Middle Passage With her already multiple religious consciousness Wheatley soon blended New England congregationalism and ...

Article

John C. Shields

Phillis Wheatley was the first African American to publish a book and the second American woman to publish a book of poems (Anne Bradstreet was the first). The volume was her collection Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773).

Article

Evan Haefeli

Phillis Wheatley was one of America's first published poets, and the first African American woman to have her work published. Born in Africa and brought to America in 1761 when she was about seven years old, Phillis lived most of her life in Boston. Her birthplace was probably somewhere in Senegambia, and her first language was most likely Wolof, yet she mastered the English language and died a free woman and American patriot. An extraordinary individual, she has served as a controversial focus of debates about race ever since the eighteenth century.

Phillis was the name of the slave ship that brought her to Boston, and Wheatley was the name of the family that purchased her. Arriving in rags, the girl found her life transformed in the household of her new masters. John Wheatley was a wealthy merchant and tailor His wife Susanna initially bought Phillis because she wanted ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

“Their colour is a diabolic dye.”

Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,

May be refined, and join the angelic train.

So ends Phillis Wheatley's poem “On Being Brought From Africa to America” (1773). The poem is remarkable not only for the honest way it speaks about color prejudice among white Christians—never a polite subject, and certainly not one in 1773—but also for the singular achievements of the author. Wheatley wrote the original version of this poem in 1768, at age fourteen, seven years after she came to America as an African slave. At the time of its publication, she was just nineteen years old yet already an internationally celebrated poet whose admirers included George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. She was the first African American, and the second American woman, to publish a book.

Wheatley was ...