Oral Presentation Essay

Submitted By Brittany-Sibley
Words: 340
Pages: 2

She was born around 1753 in West Africa and brought to New England in 1761. Phillis came from Senegal/ Gambia. Very likely she was kidnapped into slavery and brought on a slaving vessel on the Middle Passage. John Wheatley of Boston purchased her as a gift for his wife. Although they brought her into the household as a slave, the Wheatley’s took a great interest in Phillis's education. Mary Wheatley, the 18 year old daughter of her owner taught her to speak and write English very quickly. Wheatley learned to read and write English by the age of nine, and she became familiar with Latin, Greek, the Bible, and selected classics at an early age. She began writing poetry at thirteen, modeling her work on the English poets of the time, particularly John Milton, Thomas Gray, and Alexander Pope. The Wheatley’s appreciated her talents, and showed her off to their friends; many came to visit. Phillis's place was designated by her white world, and she was virtually cut off from her own people, but she was definitely still a slave, although a privileged one. Some critics have been disturbed that her poetry is not more attuned to modern political and racial awareness, that she seems to have adopted a "white voice" and abandoned her own race. This hardly seems fair, though it has led many to focus on the tragedy of her life rather than her poetry. By 1772 Phillis Wheatley had compiled a collection of verse. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of John and Susanna Wheatley, no…