Phillis Wheatley

Born in Gambia, Africa and enslaved at the age of seven years old, Phillis Wheatley is known as the first published African American woman writer and poet whose works helped create the genre of African American literature. As a slave, the Wheatley Family of Boston, gave her the name “Phillis” which meant “green branch” for her love of flowers. Phillis was taught to read and write as well as tutored in English, Latin, history, geography, religion, and the Bible. She was also encouraged to write poetry and published her first poem when she was 16. At the age of 20, Phillis was sent to England where she wrote more poems. Her first book of poetry entitled, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was published in 1773 and brought her fame. Phillis wrote poetry that helped people, especially during war time, because her poems gave people hope. She became known as the poet of the American Revolution and her success as a poet also led to her freedom as a slave.