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The Poems of Phillis Wheatley

By Phillis Wheatley & Mint Editions
The Poems of Phillis Wheatley by Phillis Wheatley & Mint Editions digital book - Fable

Publisher Description

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) is the first book of poetry published by an African American author. Written while Wheatley was a slave in Boston, the collection was published in England. Regarded for her mastery of classical poetic form, Phillis Wheatley earned praise from Voltaire and George Washington. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral has long been the subject of scholarly work on the history of African American literature, with some critics arguing that Wheatley’s poems proved detrimental to the struggle of enslaved African Americans. Whether Wheatley made excuses for slavery or, as some have argued, included subtle critiques of the institution in her writing, her talent and importance to the history of African American literature remain undisputed.

Despite her status as a slave, Phillis Wheatley seems to have viewed herself as a blessed individual, a woman for whom life itself was a sign of God’s grace, and in whom talent arose in the form of a foreign language. Many of her poems—elegies, odes, and monologues—are aimed at others. Whether in mourning, in praise, or in warning, Wheatley frequently offers her own voice to university students, royalty, God, the muses, and deceased infants. When she does offer glimpses of herself, for instance, in her poem “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” she provides a complex perspective on her status as a slave: “’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.” While her words may seem strange to our modern view of the American institution of slavery, they provide an important historical lens onto the adoption of Christianity by African American slaves, who developed a faith grounded in resistance, hope, and redemption.

This edition of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral is a classic of African American literature reimagined for modern readers.

Since our inception in 2020, Mint Editions has kept sustainability and innovation at the forefront of our mission. Each and every Mint Edition title gets a fresh, professionally typeset manuscript and a dazzling new cover, all while maintaining the integrity of the original book.

With thousands of titles in our collection, we aim to spotlight diverse public domain works to help them find modern audiences. Mint Editions celebrates a breadth of literary works, curated from both canonical and overlooked classics from writers around the globe.

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About Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) was an African American poet. Born in West Africa, she was stolen into slavery as a young girl and purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston. Raised to work as a servant for Susanna Wheatley, she was tutored by the Wheatley children in reading and writing, learning Greek and Latin by the age of twelve and writing her first poem at fourteen. Recognizing her talent, the Wheatley family sought publication for her work, eventually moving Phillis to London at the age of twenty in search of wealthy patrons. In 1773, her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral became the first book of poetry ever published by an African American author, earning her worldwide fame and the acclaim of such figures as George Washington, Jupiter Hammon, Voltaire, and John Paul Jones. That same year, she was emancipated by the Wheatleys, and in 1778 she married a free black businessman named John Peters. Her final years were plagued with illness, debt, and manual labor; her death at the age of thirty-one cut short the improbable life of a true pioneer of American literature.

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