A Poet from History

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)

Born in West Africa, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery at the age of seven or eight and transported to North America, where she was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, who taught her to read and write and encouraged her when they realized her talent for poetry.

With the publication of her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral in 1773 she became the first professional African-American woman poet, and the first African-American woman to be published.

As the Revolution gained strength, she began writing poetry to support independence. She sent a copy of her poem "To His Excellency, George Washington," written in 1775, to General Washington in 1776. Impressed, he invited her to his camp, where she read for the future president of the United States. 

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