Interview with Phillis Wheatley

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Me (Question 1): So, Phillis. Please tell me what your journey was like from Africa to America. Phillis Wheatley: Well, it was an extremely uncomfortable ship ride, if that is what you were wondering. The rooms were only 5 feet 8 inches high. But “Twas mercy [that] brought me from my Pagan land, taught my benighted soul to understand that there’s a God, that there’s a Savior too.” (Wheatley, 37. The Life and Works of Phillis Wheatley). Some people on the ship would look at our race “with scornful eye” (Wheatley, 37. The Life and Works of Phillis Wheatley) and say, “’Their colour is a diabolic dye’” (Wheatley, 37. The Life and Works of Phillis Wheatley). Me (Question 2): How did you learn English? Who taught you? Phillis Wheatley: I was very fortunate to get into a family who treated me well. The Wheatley’s were a very nice family, and they said they noticed something about me, some sort of intelligence, right away. They knew I was interested in learning how to read, write and speak English. Mary Wheatley (one of their daughters) instructed me on my household chores but also helped me with my English tongue. She also taught me the alphabet and I caught on extremely fast and immediately after learning how to read, I wanted to learn how to write. I would sometimes use charcoal and a brick wall to teach myself. I ended up mastering English within 4 years. Me (Question 3): I have noticed that many of your poems are very religious. They often mention God. Why is this? Phillis Wheatley: God is a very big part of my life. I was “a sinner once, but now a saint with God” (Wheatley, 49. Life and Works of Phillis Wheatley). I believe that the Lord God is my Savior and King. He is a “Great God, incomprehensible, unknown. By sense, we bow at thine exalted throne.” (Wheatley, 49. The Life and Works of Phillis Wheatley). Me (Question 4): On top of many of your poems mentioning God and your religion, you have also written many poems responding to...
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