Phillis Wheatley Peters: Black History Month, Part 6

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Episode Description:
Phillis Wheatley Peters was the first African American to publish a volume of poetry. She was born around 1753 and taken to the American colonies as a slave, but learned how to read and write, publishing her first poem at the age of thirteen. Her fame became international when her poems were published in London. She is remembered not only for her poetry, but also for inspiring abolitionists in America and Europe.

Script for Phillis Wheatley Peters: Black History Month, Part 6

60-Second Civics, Episode 4248

Phillis Wheatley Peters: Black History Month, Part 6



Phillis Wheatley was a well-known African American poet of the Revolutionary period.


Born in West Africa, she was taken as a slave when only about seven years old and sold to John and Susanna Wheatley of Boston in 1761.


Susanna Wheatley intended to use Phillis as a servant, but discovered that Phillis was unusually intelligent for her age, so she allowed her children to teach her how to read and write.


She soon showed an unusual talent for writing poetry.


Her first poem was published in 1767, when she was only thirteen, a mere six years after landing in America.


Her fame began to grow.


After a trip to England to meet a group of influential supporters, Phillis Wheatley's first book of poetry was published in London in 1773.


She was freed by the Wheatley family in 1774, shortly before Susanna died.


She famously wrote a poem to honor George Washington in 1776, who acknowledged her talent in a letter.


In 1778, Wheatley married John Peters, but soon fell on hard times.


Over the years, she would continue to publish her poems, but would die in poverty in 1784.


Nevertheless, Phillis Wheatley Peters was the first African American to publish a volume of poetry and served as an inspiration to abolitionists in Revolution-era America and Britain.


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