Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
|Context||Wheatley had just been freed and she hoped to influence the Earl of Dartmouth, an influential British policy maker.|
|Audience||The Earl of Dartmouth|
|Purpose||To persuade the Earl of Dartmouth to respect the colonies' rights|
Born in the Senegal area of West Africa and enslaved at age seven, Phillis Wheatley was purchased by a Boston tailor in 1761. She took advantage of opportunities to read and write, and proved to be extraordinarily gifted and determined. In 1771, though still in her teens, she became the first published African American, and her poetry became well known in North America and England.
Wheatley corresponded with several prominent people on both sides of the Atlantic, including George Washington. She wrote the poem reproduced below in 1773, around the time her owners freed her, to the new Secretary of State for the colonies, the Earl of Dartmouth, a man who would have a great deal to say about political relations between Great Britain and the colonies. Wheatley's poem was politically motivated.
Steeped in the classics, Wheatley's emotionally restrained style was characteristic of the period's high literature.