Phillis Wheatley - Biography and Works

Phillis Wheatley was born in Senegal in 1753 and she was brought in a slave ship to Boston, Massachusetts. She was then bought by John Wheatley for his wife. Phillis was given a chance to education because of her intelligence and Mary Wheatley, the daughter of John Wheatley, took the responsibility to teach her. She amazingly mastered in Latin, Greek, English and theology in no time.


Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)



The Wheatleys encouraged her in her literary career. She was fortunate enough to receive an education in such a time when African Americans were deprived of learnings.

At the age of 13, she first published her first poem in Newport Mercury which was about two men who were about to drown in the sea. Since then, she had started publishing her poems in several other newspapers and magazines.  Her first collected work is Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral published in 1773 with the support of Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon. She became more famous with its publication. The publication of this collection was a milestone in the American literature. She became the first African American slave to publish a poetry collection. 

She was a strong supporter of the independence the America. George Washington was quite impressed by her works and she was invited to visit him at his headquarters in Cambridge in 1776.

After being free from slavery, she married to a free African American John Peters in 1778. She had three children, but all died. She had to face abject poverty in her married life, and she cannot publish her second volume of poetry. She was again obliged to look for a work as a maid and she started working in a boarding house. Though she continued writing even in the boarding house, she was later discouraged to write because of the problematic situation between British and American.  She died in 1784 in her early 30s.

Related Topic

On Being Brought from Africa to America: Analysis

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