Phyllis Wheatley (1753-1784) was born in Senegal, Africa. At the age of seven, she was sold to John and Susannah Wheatley in Boston, Massachusetts. Rather than keep her as a servant, she was raised as one of their own children. The Wheatleys taught her to read and write English and gave her a full education.
In 1773 Phyllis released a book of 39 poems. It was the second published African-American poet and first published African-American woman.
Although she died in poverty, her words were used by abolitionists in the 1830’s as proof that slavery should be abolished.
‘Twas mercy brought me from my pagan land,
Taught my beknighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Savior too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their color is a diabolic dye.”
Remember Christians; Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
-Phyllis Wheatley’s On Being Brought from Africa to America.