“In every human Beast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance.”
Phillis Wheatley was kidnapped from West Africa and enslaved, sold to John Wheatley from Boston to be a personal servant for his wife. Though most slaves were denied their right to education, Wheatley became educated and even learned Latin and Greek, and was the first African American woman to publish poetry. Like Gwendolyn Brooks, she wrote her first poem at age 13! Her book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral won great acclaim, but required the signatures of 17 important Boston men to confirm that she, a female slave, had written it. Wheatley went on tour in England promoting her poetry, and when she returned to Boston she was freed. Yet she faced great poverty and was forced into work as a maid in awful conditions, and could not find a publisher for a second book. Despite her premature and sad ending, Phillis Wheatley was an important pioneer and a strong voice in the face of unbelievable obstacles.