“Up from Africa,” the prolific writer Phillis Wheatley once wrote. At a time when literary arts and the enslaved were often mutually exclusive, Wheatley prevailed. Born in West Africa in 1753, she was sold at a young age and raised in Boston. By the time she was 12 the astute and ravenous learner had taken in Greek and Latin classics. Commanding purveyors of poetry, she is recognized as the first African American author of a book of poetry. Wheatley’s work found a home in the global artistic sphere reaching unexpected consumers including King George III who reportedly sought a meeting with her. Slightly north of 30 years old, Wheatley blazed a mark that still shines three centuries later. May 8th marks the 267th anniversary of her birth.
HIS EXCELLENCY GENERAL WASHINGTON
Celestial choir! enthron’d in realms of light, Columbia’s scenes of glorious toils I write.