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Phillis Wheatley entry: Overview screen.
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Overview
Writing
Life
Writing and Life
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Despite her youth at the time she published most of her works, Phillis Wheatley is an interesting and original late eighteenth-century poetic voice. Her poems (dozens published in newspapers, as well as collected) and letters range through social feeling, classical allusion, the religious, and the political, with mostly veiled comments on her own peculiar status as a black African slave writing for free people. Her race, gender, and enslaved status give her a particular interest, but her literary achievement makes a solid part of that interest.
Milestones
About 1753 PW was born in Africa, probably in Gambia. Bibliographic Citation link.
21 December 1767 The appearance of a poem by PW, "On Messrs. Hussey and Coffin", in a Boston newspaper was remarkable (though not a first) because of Wheatley's status as a chattel slave. Bibliographic Citation link.
29 February 1772 PW's owner, John Wheatley, put out proposals for collecting and publishing a volume of her poems; but the project did not go through. Bibliographic Citation link.
By October 1773 PW's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was published in London, certified to be the unaided work of a 'Negro servant'. Bibliographic Citation link.
July 1784 The poem regarded as PW's last, "An Elegy on Leaving —", was published in the Methodist Arminian Magazine. Bibliographic Citation link.
5 December 1784 Phillis Peters (formerly PW) died "in poverty, largely forgotten." Bibliographic Citation link.
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