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African-American Poet Phillis Wheatley
Only a child of about eight when she was kidnapped and brought to America as a slave, Phillis Wheatley was given the name of her Boston master, tailor John Wheatley. With his wife Susanna, John Wheatley treated the young girl kindly, providing an education that included the classical languages and literature. Phillis Wheatley’s poetry was published for the first time in 1767. She traveled to England in 1773, where her book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was hailed as the first published by an African American. Although she received her freedom soon after, Wheatley’s last years saw only misery and she died in 1784. Her work, lost and forgotten until the publication of a new edition in 1834, was used by abolitionists to prove that blacks were not intellectually inferior to whites.

Image: Library of Congress