ENG 350 American Literature I
2 September 2011
Response paper 3: “On Being Brought from Africa to America”
To the literary world, Phillis Wheatley is recognized as the first black American poet (Archiving Early America, 2011). At the young age of seven, Phillis Wheatley was stolen from her homeland of Africa and sold into slavery to John Wheatley becoming the personal slave servant to his wife, Susannah Wheatley. She was taught to read and write English as well as the study of Latin and English literature. Due to this advantage, she began to write poetry that encompassed her Christian faith, her abduction from Africa and learned histories. (Woodlief, A.)
One of her most notable poems is, “On Being Brought from Africa to America”. Within this poem, she utilizes words that can have the reader perplexed wondering if she was fully cognizant of the time and her status, a slave. In this poem she employs many words, there true meaning hidden within the text, which gives way to her knowledge and understanding of self and surroundings. It reads: ‘Twas mercy brought me from my pagan land,
The use of this phrase can be interpreted as being taken from a land void of Christianity and being delivered into the Christian faith. Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Savior too:
The word benighted means to be in a state of moral or intellectual darkness. This represents her once lack of knowledge and faith before becoming a slave. Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their color is a diabolic dye.”
The color of sable is a very dark shade of black fur that is considered valuable and alluring. In contrast, she references to it being a diabolic dye impresses upon the negative thoughts and feelings of others toward her race and status. Remember Christians; Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train. (Phillis Wheatley, AEA) •
The last two...
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