“the most reviled poem in African-American literature”

April is National Poetry Month which means that I can post another verse by Phillis Wheatley. In 1761, a girl of about seven was kidnapped in Africa and put aboard a slave ship bound for Boston. There merchant John Wheatley purchased her as a companion for his wife. Phillis was the name of the ship that brought her to that city; her surname was that of her master. (See other posts about Wheatley here, here, and here.) Phillis’s interest in and aptitude for learning was soon recognized and encouraged. Her first poem was published in a Newport newspaper when she was about thirteen. She continued to write poems, and an English benefactor agreed to underwrite the publication of a book, Poems on Various Subjects, in London in 1773. Wheatley’s poems are full of classical references as was typical at the time. Religion also figures prominently: Phillis became a devoted Christian. The following verse by Wheatley has been described by the African-American historian Henry Louis Gates as “the most reviled poem in African-American literature” because it justifies slavery if it is the means whereby slaves become Christian.

Information about Wheatley including the quoted verse can be found HERE.

posted April 3rd, 2014 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Boston, Poetry, Religion, Slaves/slavery

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