On December 5, we remember poet Phillis Wheatley, on the day of her death in 1784, at just 31 years old. Born in Senegal, Africa, she was captured and brought to America as a small child, where she was purchased by Boston businessman John Wheatley. Wheatley and his family recognized her intellectual gifts and—in an amazing move at that time—decided to educate her in reading and writing and Greek, Latin, theology, literature, history, and poetry.
While still in her teens, Wheatley published a collection of poems that made her a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic. She was the first woman of African descent ever to publish a book of poetry—and the first slave.
As Vincent Carretta noted in his biography of Wheatley, the Bible played a central role in developing her craft. Her inborn talents were amplified by the influence of the Scriptures and the Christian emphasis on literacy and the evangelization of all peoples.
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