Black History--Women of Courage: Phyllis Wheatley

Phyllis Wheatley
Phyllis Wheatley

At the age of seven or eight, Phyllis Wheatley was captured in her west African homeland and sold into slavery. She never let her situation keep her from reaching her dream. One day, the Wheatleys saw Phyllis writing on a wall with chalk. Rather than punish her--since it was illegal at the time for blacks to read or write--they encouraged her to learn.

Their daughter tutored Phyllis, who quickly fell in love with poetry. At the age of 17, Phyllis Wheatley became America's first published black poet. Three years later, a volume of her poetry was published in London and Wheatley became a sensation.

Wheatley's poetry dealt primarily with religious and moral themes. But she was also a patriot and an admirer of President George Washington. Around 1773, the Wheatleys gave Phyllis her freedom. As a free woman, she published both an antislavery letter and a poem to Washington. He wrote Phyllis back, thanking her and praising her "great talents."

That's why we honor Phyllis Wheatley, a woman of courage.

Reported by: Dawn Baker,