The poet Phillis Wheatley (1753–84) was born in west Africa and was carried as a slave to Boston in 1761. There she was bought by John and Susanna Wheatley who employed her as a domestic servant. Through their daughter Mary, she gained an unusual education that encompassed Classical and English literature, the Bible, geography and history; ‘as to her Writing’, John Wheatley noted, ‘her own Curiosity led her to it’.1 Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was published in London in 1773 with the patronage of Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon (patron to evangelist George Whitfield, and black writers such as Gronniosaw, John Marrant, and Olaudah Equiano). That year she had taken a trip there, intending to recover her health, see to the collection’s publication, and visit her patron, but she was called back to tend her ailing mistress. She was granted her freedom shortly after her return to America in the same year.
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- Phillis Wheatley
Stephen H. Gregg
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