Phillis Wheatley, Negro Servant to Mr. John Wheatley, of Boston
This copperplate engraving shows the profile of Phillis Wheatley (c.1753–1784), while she is writing in a book. She was the first African-American woman to publish a book of poetry. Born in the Senegambia region around 1753 she was kidnapped at 7 or 8 years old and taken to Boston. Her purchasers, John and Susanna Wheatley, named her Phillis after the name of the ship that brought her to Massachusetts. Living in their household as a servant, she was permitted to learn to read, and not long after began writing poetry. Her first published poem appeared in 1767 but was published in London largely because of racial prejudice in Boston. She left no account of her life in Africa or the middle passage, and her life ended sadly, at about the age of 31, in Boston in 1784. Her portrait was done when she was about 20 years old. For details on her life and works, see Vincent Carretta, Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage (University of Georgia Press, 2011); also, Phillis Wheatley: Complete Writings (Penguin Classics) (Penguin Putnam Inc., 2001).
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (London, 1773), frontispiece. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-628/40054.
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"Phillis Wheatley, Negro Servant to Mr. John Wheatley, of Boston", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed May 18, 2021, http://www.slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/2691