Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley, 1753?–1784, American poet, considered the first important black writer in the United States. Brought from Africa in 1761, she became a house slave for the Boston merchant John Wheatley and his wife Susanna, who, recognizing her intelligence and wit, educated her and encouraged her talent. Her work, which was derivative, was published in the collection Poems on Various Subjects (1773) and in various magazines. A second volume existed in manuscript, but it was not published and was subsequently lost. Although Wheatley traveled to England, where she was much admired, and soon thereafter obtained her freedom, she eventually died in poverty.

See her Life and Works (1916, repr. 1969); H. L. Gates, Jr., The Trials of Phillis Wheatley (2003).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Poems of Phillis Wheatley
Julian D. Mason Jr.; Phillis Wheatley.
University of North Carolina Press, 1989 (Revised edition)
From "Uncultivated Barbarian" to "Poetical Genius": The Public Presence of Phillis Wheatley
Nott, Walt.
MELUS, Vol. 18, No. 3, Fall 1993
By Herself: Women Reclaim Poetry
Molly McQuade.
Graywolf Press, 2000
Black American Poets and Dramatists: Before the Harlem Renaissance
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1994
Spiritual Interrogations: Culture, Gender, and Community in Early African American Women's Writing
Katherine Clay Bassard.
Princeton University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Two "Disapora Subjectivity and Transatlantic Crossings: Phillis Wheatley's Poetics of Recovery" and Chap. Three "'The Too Advent'rous Strain': Slavery, Conversion, and Poetic Empowerment in Phillis Wheatley's Elegies"
Phillis Wheatley's Construction of Otherness and the Rhetoric of Performed Ideology
Balkun, Mary McAleer.
African American Review, Vol. 36, No. 1, Spring 2002
Unprecedented Liberties: Re-Reading Phillis Wheatley
Flanzbaum, Hilene.
MELUS, Vol. 18, No. 3, Fall 1993
The Negro Genius: A New Appraisal of the Achievement of the American Negro in Literature and the Fine Arts
Benjamin Brawley.
Biblio and Tannen Publishers, 1966
Librarian’s tip: Includes "The Pioneers: Jupiter Hammon, Phillis Wheatley, Gustavus Vassa"
To Make a Poet Black
J. Saunders Redding.
McGrath Publishing, 1968
Librarian’s tip: Includes "The Forerunners: Jupiter Hammon, Phillis Wheatley, George Moses Horton"
Written by Herself: Literary Production by African American Women, 1746-1892
Frances Smith Foster.
Indiana University Press, 1993
Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction
Hallie Q. Brown.
Oxford University Press, 1992
The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution
Sidney Kaplan; Emma Nogrady Kaplan.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1989 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: Includes a section on Phillis Wheatley
African American Authors, 1745-1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook
Emmanuel S. Nelson.
Greenwood Press, 2000
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