port of harlem magazine
On Being Brought from Africa to America
May 21 – June 03, 2020
phillis wheatley

'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 die."

Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain,

May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

Short Biographies

Born in present-day Senegal, Phillis Wheatley was kidnaped and sold at age seven to a prosperous Boston family who educated her. She was the first Black writer of consequence in America. She received her freedom and married a free Black man in 1778. Despite her skills, she was never able to support her family and died in complete poverty.

From the
West Africans In Early America Exhibit

First African-American Poet Published in Book Form

Born in Senegambia, Phillis Wheatley was sold into slavery when she was about seven years old. She once had to stand in the middle of important White men to convince them that Africans could have the knowledge that Whites had and that the poetry she wrote was her work. Even with a letter from these important men, American printers would not publish her book, so Wheatley sailed to England to meet the King and to publish her poems.

Wheatley married John Peters, and they had three children. A handwritten and signed letter dated February 14, 1776 by Wheatley brought a record setting $253,000 at auction on November 22, 2005.

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