Drawing attention to Phillis Wheatley to start off Black History Month

+9 votes
I just read a very powerful article about her and checked to see if she already has a WikiTree profile.  She does, but it appears to be missing some information about her childhood that is filled in by this article.  I added the link to it to the sources on her profile, but did not edit her biography to add the extra information - I don't think this article qualifies as a source for pre-1700 and, to me, the 1700's deserve the same rigor.

For those not familiar with her name (as I wasn't before reading this article), she was an enslaved American poet, although "American" is probably not the right term, since she was here and did her work a few years pre-revolution ... anyhow, I found the article a powerful read and recommend it to y'all.  It is at:

WikiTree profile: Phillis Wheatley
in Genealogy Help by Gaile Connolly G2G6 Pilot (839k points)
retagged by Emma MacBeath

2 Answers

+3 votes
Thanks so much for featuring Phillis Wheatley! I wish we could know more about her. The fact she could even write at that time period is amazing.  (P.S. I added the black_heritage tag so USBH project members will see your post)
by Emma MacBeath G2G6 Pilot (739k points)
Emma, that article has a lot more about her amazing background, but of course, it's unsourced.  It says she was enslaved in England to a wealthy family and they brought her with them when they immigrated to the United States (although that's not what it was yet when they came).  Their daughter about the same age as Phillis died and they treated Phillis like their own, educating her in English, Latin, and who-knows-what else.  She traveled back to England to publish her work and said she wouldn't return to the United States unless she was given her freedom.
ah, that makes more sense. there are linked sources on the article (I didn't see them at first, but are highlighted in a different text color.)

some of the Links



+2 votes
Phyliss Wheatley

Senagal and the Phillis Ship

Born in Senegal located near the North Atlantic Ocean, Phyllis Wheatley was taken as a 7 year old child from her West African home. The kidnappers put her aboard their vessel to sell her on the American slave market. The captain noticed she was sick she was also frail and there was little time for the dealer himself who picked her as a priority on the market.

After sailing around 90 men women or children to America they lost over 20 leaving them no time to bargain what they had left either. They were viewed on the this vessel and sold to bidding slave owners in Boston.

From a Carpet Wrap to Stationary

The local Wheatley family heads Susanna and John were rich aristocracy whose family suffered a loss of a child. In efforts to surprise his wife John bought another servant. Being she was female they immediately grew fond of her renaming her Phyllis Wheatley. This was also the name of the ship she was onboard during her journey to the United States. They had their kids tutoring her and she on her own time translated a story into plain English. Noticing the great accomplishments she had made they bought her paper supply and pencils. She lived differently than most enslaved people at this time had her own room. She was very friendly with guests and even had correspondence with their servants. Phyllis started getting invited to homes of the wealthy. She though was weary of many of these welcomings and would be seated across and separate from her admirers.

John Hancock himself although he became a huge fan of her writings stood on his feet the entire duration of her 18 man interrogation on trial and finally after this incident decided she wrote the book herself. Her and the siblings of the household were kind to each other. After the daughter Mary was married Susanna began having health troubles. The family doctor decided for the benefit of Phyllis’ own health problems she leave to London where she wrote poetry and began selling a book that reached the shore of America. Phyllis had left for England in hopes of achieving as an accomplished writer. Upon returning home when word arrived of Susanna’s deteriorated condition, she had her own surprise the Wheatley’s who had grew admiration for her work, freed her.

Marriage Difficulties in Family Life

As she began her journey she continued writing with loss of her established household she served under, her career path began to unravel. Benjamin Franklin it is reported helped continue her book sales but despite of even his efforts, the Revolutionary War had affected books sales entirely. She meets a man, named John Peters, who was also free he owns his own business a merchant who marries her in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. They quickly see their finances dissolve and her husband becomes more and more frequently dissatisfied in their relationship. She soon loses her platform she once wrote from fans and readers including Alexander Pope Thomas Jefferson and even George Washington. Then as Phyllis begins having a family the Wheatleys face death themselves first the mother who did not make it now with the father who left Phyllis out his will then then Mary their daughter and eventually the son who too passes. John Peters would have changed professions almost from mercantile (also in between as a sailor) to book store owner he goes bankrupt and finds himself in jail. They were married in 1778 they have kids seemingly immediately thereafter. With little left in their what may be portrayed as a failed relationship he strays away from his wife who loses two kids to poverty’s clutches.

George her first child was born in June of 1779 who suffered from a stomach illness died the same year Nathaniel Wheatley passed. The year 1783 she gave birth to a daughter called Eliza. Having nobody the Wheatley extended family took note of her situation she had once again lost a child, Eliza to poverty and on December 5, 1784 her body gave in to her lifelong asthma T.B. battle she died from complications during childbirth. Hours later her daughter called Mary lost her little life as well.

Star Poet’s Tragic Turn

Phyllis Wheatley would have a funeral and in the same cemetery her husband is buried- but only the papers released an obituary neglecting to cover the celebration of life her entire family and friends gave her. There is little known about her family her children’s graves even remain undisclosed and her husband’s relatives are unknown - or lost in history. Just a young child from Senegal born 1753 surviving a slave ship and enslavement, a trailblazer female poet, first Black woman to publish in the entire world dying as almost an unknown at 31 years of age in Boston, Massachusetts.
by Anonymous Zapata G2G6 Mach 2 (21.1k points)

Related questions

+11 votes
1 answer
+9 votes
0 answers
+12 votes
0 answers

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright