It’s day four of Black History Month, and today the spotlight is on a poet by the name of Phillis Wheatley. She was the first African American, and one of the first women to publish poetry in the colonies around 1773.
Phillis was born in West Africa in 1753. She was brought to Massachusetts in 1761 on a slave ship and purchased by John Wheatley. She was the personal servant to his wife. Although slaves weren’t allowed to read and write, Phillis was educated by the Wheatleys.
She learned to speak Latin and Greek, and started writing poetry. Her first poem was written and published in the year of 1767. Phillis later on gained more attention on her book of verses titled, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.
Phillis was a supporter for America’s independence. She wrote poems in honor of President George Washington, and sent one of her works to him in 1775. She was invited to visit him in March 1776 in Washington, and of course she accepted the offer.
In 1768, she wrote to King George III to thank him for repealing the Stamp Act.
Phillis married a free black man name John Peters from Boston in 1778. They had three children together, and unfortunately died as infants. The couple faced many struggles due to their poverty. Phillis kept at it with her work, but she was not able to publish her work due to their poverty.
Sometimes she would take on maid jobs in boarding houses. Not only that, but her husband was imprisoned for debt. Phillis never stopped writing. She was not able to publish her second volume of poems.
On December 5, 1784, Phillis died in her 30’s in Boston, Massachusetts.
Read more about Phillis Wheatley at http://www.biography.com/people/phillis-wheatley-9528784#later-life