Phillis Wheatley

Born: 1784

Phillis Wheatley Peters was born in West Africa in 1753. At the age of eight, she was kidnapped, enslaved in New England, and sold to John Wheatley of Boston. The first African-American and one of the first women to publish a book of poetry in the colonies, Wheatley learned to read and write English by the age of nine, familiarizing herself with Latin, Greek, the Bible, and selected classics at an early age. She began writing poetry at thirteen, modeling her work on the English poets of the time, particularly John Milton, Thomas Gray, and Alexander Pope. Her poem “On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield” was published as a broadside in cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia and garnered Wheatley national acclaim. This poem was also printed in London. Over the next few years, she would print a number of broadsides elegizing prominent English and colonial leaders. Source