Her Story: Phillis Wheatley

Georgia as Phillis Wheatley, first African-American woman to publish a book.

Her Story: Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley (ca. 1753-1784) was the first African-American woman to publish a book.

Wheatley was born on the coast of West Africa and kidnapped by slave traders in 1761 and brought to America. John Wheatley of Boston Massachusetts purchased her as a personal servant for his wife Susanna. They named her Phyllis after the slave ship that brought her to America. 

The Wheatley family recognized young Phillis’s intelligence and talent early on. They tutored her at home and within two years she had mastered English, then she went on to learn Greek and Latin. She also studied geography, astronomy, religion, literature, and history.

Phillis Wheatley began writing poetry at age 12. In 1767, Wheatley’s first poem appeared in print, but she did not become well known until 1770 at age 23. A few years later she published a book, Poems on Various Subjects. Her book is credited with helping to create the African American literature genre.

Her popularity as a writer in the United States and in England ultimately helped her earn her freedom. She was a strong and vocal supporter of independence for the colonies throughout the Revolutionary War.

Phillis Wheatley, thank you for your passion to learn and your courage to write. 

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About The Author


Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.


    1. Thank you Mr. Michael. This is an image of Georgia paying homage to The Great Phillis Wheatley as part of her Black women’s history project, ‘She Made History’.

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