Phillis Wheatley was a literary prodigy who, in 1773, aged about 19, visited London to promote her poetry collection. She had been born in Africa, enslaved as an eight-year-old and taken to Boston, Massachusetts. Hosted by the Abolitionist Granville Sharp during her London visit, Wheatley secured her freedom soon after returning to Boston. Because she was still enslaved during her visit to London, the writer Ignatius Sancho dubbed her ‘Genius in bondage’.
Wheatley’s lyrical, Romantic poetry is typical of the later 18th century. Her verses are rarely overtly political, but they include this claim to equality, radical for its time: ‘Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, / May be refin’d, and join th’angelic train’.
What poems are digitised here?
- ‘On being brought from Africa to America’ (p. 18)
- ‘On Imagination’ (pp. 65–68)
- ‘To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth, His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for North America, &c.’ (pp. 73–75)
- ‘To S. M. a young African Painter, on seeing his Works’ (pp. 114–115)