Phillis Wheatley an Ex-African
Phillis Wheatley born in Gambia, Africa in 1753 was the first early African American slave poet. “A kidnapped African slave child, aged about seven years old” (Lauter 1297), she was brought to Boston where she was sold to John and Susanna Wheatley. Phillis Wheatley’s first name was not given to her at birth she acquired her name by the ship that carried her to America in which it was name “The Phillis”. Susanna Wheatley chose the young African slave, because of her “humble and modest demeanor and the interesting features of the little stranger” (Odell 9). Phillis soon after being adopted into the Wheatley family “experienced special, much-indulged comfort” (Lauter 1297). Phillis was treated quite differently from the other slaves that she lived with; it was if they accepted her as one of their own children.
Phillis Wheatley was a very intelligent child and Mrs. Wheatley noticed this about her when they brought her home, for she “was frequently seen endeavoring to make letters upon the wall with a piece of chalk or charcoal” (Odell 10). Due to Phillis’s inquisitive and precocious nature, Mrs. Wheatley decided to take it upon herself to educate the young child, in teaching her how to read and write. Being “tutored by family members, she quickly learned English, Latin and the Bible” (Lauter 1297). Mrs. Wheatley was very amazed by the rapid progress young Phillis was making in grasping the material being taught to her. She was in Mrs. Wheatley good graces with her good-natured disposition and good mannered behavior. “As to her writing, her curiosity let her to it; and this she learnt in so short of a time, that in the year 1765, she wrote a letter to the Reverend Samson Occom, the Indian Minister” (Shields 6), “and she sent a poem to Reverend Joseph Sewall of Boston’s Old South Church” (Lauter 1297).
Due to the wealthy status of the Wheatley’s in the 18th century, it made it quite possible for young Phillis Wheatley to emerge as an...