May 8, 1753 – December 5, 1784
First African descendant poet to publish a book.
Born in 1753 in West Africa, Phyllis Wheatley was kidnapped and taken to New England, enslaved and sold to John Wheatley of Boston in 1761.
Due to the fact that Phyllis showed extreme talent in literacy, she was tutored by the Wheatley’s son Nathaniel in English, Latin, history, geography, religion, and the Bible.
In 1772, Phyllis had to prove her writing abilities to a group of Boston luminaries that concluded she had written her works. Despite the ruling, Phyllis had to travel to London to publish her book, making her popular in England and the United States, eventually buying her freedom in October of 1773.
Phyllis married John Peters and had 3 children. Unfortunately, John disappeared leaving Phyllis by herself to raise her children. Two died very young and the last died shortly after Phyllis in 1784 in a boarding house. She died in poverty. Her second volume of poetry was never found.