geelovestowrite is honored to feature Phillis Wheatley.
A matriarch in the poetry world. She paved the way for me and other women writers. Wheatley was the first published African American poet as well as the first women to be published. She was born in Gambia, West Africa in 1753. She was purchased by the Wheatley family at the age of 7. The Wheatley family taught her how to read and write. Surprisingly, they encouraged her poetry.
In 1778, Wheatley was legally freed from slavery after her master’s death, by the terms of her master’s will. Unfortunately, Phillis died just 6 years later. Here is one of Wheatley poems that describe her journey of crossing the ocean and becoming enslaved in America:
Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic dye.”
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
Wheatley tried to get more of her works published but due her husband, John Peters, debt she was unable. After her death some of her works from her second volume of poems were published.
The Phillis Wheatley YMCA in Washington, D.C. is named for her.