Hailed as America’s first black poet, Phillis Wheatley, was kidnapped from her home in Senegal, Africa and sold into slavery at the age of seven. By the grace of God, she was bought by John and Susannah Wheatley of Boston, a couple who accepted her as part of the family soon after and was she raised with their two children.
Due to poor health and obvious intelligence, and Susannah Wheatley’s fondness for her, Phillis was never trained as a domestic; instead she was encouraged by the Wheatleys to study theology and the English, Latin and Greek classics. She published her first poem in 1767. Six years later John Wheatley emancipated her. She was the first black American to have her poems published.
On Being Brought From Africa To America
A poem by Phillis Wheatly
‘Twas mercy brought me from my pagan land,
Taught my beknighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Savior too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their color is a diabolic dye.”
Remember Christians; Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
Sources: Earlyamerica.com; PBS.org
Phillis’s legacy lives on and her statue in Boston is a testimony that with God nothing is impossible. Through His providence, Phillis achieved more than any slave could ever imagine. He blessed her with wisdom and understanding and a talent that brought her recognition. Today we can read her poems and reflect on the woman who penned the believed that it was mercy that brought her from her home to a strange land. There she found God and her Savior.