Phillis Wheatley

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When I reviewed our reading assignments for this past week, I was thrilled to see that we would be reading the works of Phillis Wheatley. During one of my recent classes, The African American Experience, I was able to read about the impact that Phillis Wheatley had on the enslaved African Americans and our society as a whole. Her story is nothing short of amazing and her poetry is joy to read.

Phillis Wheatley was born in Africa around 1753 and was captured as a slave in the area known today as Senegal, which is located in West Africa. She was brought to America on one of the slave ships and sold in 1761 to the Wheatley family to be a personal slave to Mrs. Wheatley, Susanna. Almost immediately, the Wheatley’s, John and Susanna, took a special liking to Phillis and treated her more like a third child than a slave. It is said that the Wheatley’s noticed something special in Phillis and choose to encourage it rather than hinder it as many slave owners did during this time period.

The turning point for Phillis Wheatley was that she was fortunate enough to be educated. This was an amazing blessing to her because it was uncommon for free women in this era to be educated, not to mention enslaved women. Phillis Wheatley was an exceptional student and is said to have mastered English, including reading and writing, in less than two years time. After mastering English, she went on to learn both Greek and Latin. According to the readings and obvious by her works, Phillis Wheatley was knowledgeable beyond her years. She had a very mature writing style while still a young teenager.

Fortunately for Phillis Wheatley, her owners and their family did not treat her like a slave. Her education was encouraged and her writings were praised. The Wheatley’s son, Nathaniel, is partly responsible that we are able to read the poetry of Phillis Wheatley today. He went with her to London in 1773 where she hoped to gain support of her manuscript and have her works...
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