1-9 of 9 results  for:

  • 1775–1800: The American Revolution and Early Republic x
  • Letter Writer x
Clear all

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

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

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 ...