Phillis Wheatley

1753-1784

Born in West Africa and sold as a slave from the ship Phillis in colonial Boston, she was a literary prodigy whose 1773 volume Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was the first book published by an African writer in America.


"Imagination! who can sing thy force?
Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?
Soaring through air to find the bright abode,
Th' empyreal palace of the thund'ring God,
We on thy pinions can surpass the wind,
And leave the rolling universe behind:
From star to star the mental optics rove,
Measure the skies, and range the realms above.
There in one view we grasp the mighty whole,
Or with new worlds amaze th' unbounded soul."
-On Imagination


"I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate
Was snatch'd from Afric's fancy'd happy seat:
What pangs excruciating must molest,
What sorrows labour in my parent's breast?
Steel'd was that soul and by no misery mov'd
That from a father seiz'd his babe belov'd:
Such, such my case. And can I then but pray
Others may never feel tyrannic sway?"
-To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmuoth


"… in every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance ... the same Principle lives in us."
-Letter to the Reverend Samson Occom, February 11, 1774