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Phillis Wheatley (1753–1784)

On Being Brought From Africa to America

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

Phillis Wheatley was born in Senegal, then taken as a slave to the United States at the age of eight (1761). There she was purchased by a Boston tailor, John Wheatley, whose daughter taught Phillis to read English, Latin, and Greek. Her first and only book of poetry, a compilation of thirty-nine poems, was entitled Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773), and published in London. Wheatley was the first African American to publish a book of poetry, and the second woman of any race to publish a book in America. She died in Boston in extreme poverty at the age of thirty-one.

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