Friday, August 23, 2013

Phyllis Wheatly

Phyllis Wheatly courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Phyllis Wheatly was born in what is now Gambia in 1753. She was captured and brought to Boston aboard the slave ship Phyllis. When she was nine, she was sold to the wealthy John Wheatly as a servant for his wife, Suzanna. She was named Phyllis after the ship and given the surname Wheatly as was the custom of the time. The Wheatly’s were kind to her, treating her almost as a daughter.
The Wheatly’s son and daughter taught Phyllis how to read and write and by the time she was twelve, she was able to read Greek and Latin.  The Wheatlys encouraged her, allowing her to study instead of working for them. Phyllis was one of the first American poets, famously writing a poem to George Washington and being invited to his house when she was still a slave.
Her greatest poem is considered to be On Being Brought from Africa to America, which shows not resentment for her enslavement, but thankfulness for her education and most of all, her conversion to Christianity. Her life was difficult, but she showed a willingness to overcome the unconquerable and strive for the unreachable. Her legacy is an inspiration for all Americans.
Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic dye."
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.


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