Phyllis Wheatley (1753-1784)
One of the best-known poets of the Revolutionary period, Wheatley was born on the western coast of Africa and kidnapped when she was about seven years old. She was transported to Boston, where she was purchased in 176l by John Wheatley, a prominent tailor, as an attendant to his wife. Wheatley learned English and was taught to read and write, and within sixteen months of her arrival in America she was reading passages from the Bible, Greek and Latin classics, astronomy, geography, history, and British literature. In 1773 thirty-nine of Wheatley's poems were published in London as Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. This collection, Wheatley's only book, is the first volume of poetry to be published by an Afro-American.