Admired by George Washington, ridiculed by Thomas Jefferson, published, and read far and wide, Phillis Wheatley led an extraordinary life. Seized in West Africa and forced into slavery as a child, she was sold to a merchant family in Boston, where she became a noted poet at a young age.
Mastering the Bible, Latin translations, and literary works, she celebrated political events, praised warriors, and used her verse to variously lampoon, question, and assert the injustice of her enslaved condition.
By doing so, she added her voice to a vibrant, multisided conversation about race, slavery, and discontent with British rule; before and after her emancipation, her verses shook up racial etiquette and used familiar forms to create bold new meanings.
In a new biography, The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley: A Poet’s Journeys Through American Slavery & Independence (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023), David Waldstreicher offers an account of Wheatley’s life and works, correcting myths, reconstructing intimate friendships, and deepening our understanding of her verse and the revolutionary era.
The Massachusetts Historical Society a program with David Waldstreicher, in conversation with Kellie Carter Jackson of Wellesley College, on Monday, March 13th.
This program will take place from 6 to 7 pm, and will be held both in person at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and virtually. Admission is $10 for in person attendance, free for virtual. For more information or to make a reservation, click here.