The poetess Phillis Wheately (1753 -December 5, 1784) was the first African American woman to be published. In 1761 at the age of 8, she was brought here from Africa on a slave ship and was sold to the Wheately family of Boston. The family gave her an extraordinary education for any woman of that time, much less a slave, and by the time she was 12, Phillis was reading Greek, Latin, and classic literature. She also attended church with the family where she was introduced to the Gospel.Recognizing that Phillis had a gift for poetry her master’s wife encouraged Phillis to write. This drew the attention and support of Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon to whom Wheately’s book of poems was dedicated.At the age of 17 Phillis wrote a eulogy for George Whitfield whom she had heard preach at her church. This piece gained widespread acclaim and you can read it HERE. At the age of 20 Phillis was emancipated by her master.Although she rarely wrote of herself she speaks from her heart in the following poem.
“On Being Brought from Africa to America”
Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic dye."
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.
To learn more about this remarkable woman please listen to Dr. Stephen Nichols 5 Minutes in Church History