Phillis Wheatley


Artwork by Baé

As the first American slave and woman of African descent to have her work published, poet Phillis Wheatley is June’s #MOTM.

Captured from West Africa at the age of 7, the woman to become Phillis Wheatley was purchased by John Wheatley as a personal servant for his wife. While doing household work, Phillis Wheatley was taught how to read and write.

Regardless of her fame across the Atlantic, the colonists were unwilling to support literature by an African. She eventually turned to London to finally publish “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” in 1773.


Frontispiece and Title Page, _Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral_, Engraving attributed to Scipio Moorhead, 1773.

Phillis’ accomplishment against gender and racial inequality was a testimony that women of her status could be creative and intellectual. Still, for her to compete with whites in the job market and to gain freedom in 1774 Boston was incredibly difficult.

A lot has changed since 1774. It comes as a shock that the struggle to gain equal justice for all still remains an unsolved issue in 2020.


A Statue of Phillis Wheatley at the Boston Women’s Memorial (Courtesy of Lorianne DiSabato, Flickr)

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