Achievements of an African American Named Phillis Wheatley
Black history month is a month where African Americans are honored for achievements they have made or accomplished in U.S. history. On the other hand Black history month isn’t just a focus around the achievements or honorable moments that African Americans made, but also a reflection to understand and appreciate the obstacles throughout someone’s life in being able to accomplish something that would make a certain change in society. There are thousands of them that have achieved something important in the past and are now being recognized to this day because of it and its impact on history.
Out of all the African Americans that have accomplished something I chose to write about Phillis Wheatley. Phillis has overcame many obstacles in her life and suffered some personal problems during that period of time where things were very complicated for many African Americans. Despite all the challenges that she had to conquer, Phillis never gave up on what she wanted to become since she was just a child. She is a very tough and fearless woman which makes me admire her even more and makes me feel bad for everything she had to go through just to accomplish the goal/dream that she had. Phillis is very courageous for everything she did in her lifetime. Many of her writings were extremely beautiful that many Bostonians didn’t believe that an African American woman wrote it. This is how Phillis has left us a very memorable accomplishment where people still know who she is because of her amazing writings,goals,and struggles she overcame just to make an accomplishment in history.
Phillis was born in Senegal in 1753. Later on in around 1761, at the age of eight years old, Phillis was abducted and was brought to Boston on a slave ship to later be swapped. She received her first name “Phillis” from the ship that had brought her to America which was called “the Phillis”. Consequent to her arrival, John Wheatley invested on Phillis who was then in delicate health which she has been suffering her entire life since she was a child, to become a servant for Susanna, his wife. Phillis then undertook her master’s last name when she was baptized, where at that time it was a custom, and was then taken under Susanna’s orders. At that time Phillis didn’t speak any english but that didn’t stop her from learning it. Phillis’s intelligence was outstanding and hard to over see, and as an outcome, Susanna and her two children taught her to read and even write.This is something that is very important to Phillis because not many African Americans had the opportunity to learn or even get an education. She acquired education in Theology, English, Latin, and Greek.
During that time many African Americans were pessimistic and frightened from learning how to read and write since they were always neglected the opportunity and were supposedly only good for being servants and following orders. Phillis’s life was an abnormality, different in many ways from other African Americans. At the age of fourteen years old, Phillis began to write poetry, publishing her first poem in 1767. Publication of “An Elegiac Poem, on the Death of the Celebrated Divine George Whitefield” in 1770 brought Phillis great fame. It wasn’t quite easy for Phillis to publish her poems during that time. Many of the publishers in Boston denied publishing a book that was written by an African American slave. With the help of Selina Hastings, Wheatley’s poetry was published in September 1773 in London. Despite everything that Phillis underwent she still fought for what she believed in and wasn’t going to stop until she got her first book published to show that not only white people could accomplish their dreams but also African Americans can too.
Phillis made many contributions in history which is why she is still known to this day. The publication of Phillis’s book of poems was one of the biggest achievements in her life. Wheatley gained considerable ability when her first and only book, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral”, was published. As evidence of her authorship, the volume contained a preface in which 17 Boston men, including John Hancock, affirmed that she had absolutely written the poems in it. A portrait of Wheatley was also constructed to prove that the work was absolutely written by a black woman. She was released shortly thereafter. Wheatley’s work was generally cited by abolitionists to fight the charge of intellectual inadequacy among blacks and to encourage educational freedom for African Americans.This achievement made her the very first published African-American and the first U.S. slave to publish a book of poems.
This also made Phillis the third woman in America whose work was published.On the other hand despite being the first African American to publish a book she was also the first to attain an international notoriety as a writer and earn a living through her work. Wheatley became famous in both England and American territory. A strong ally of America’s fight for independence, Wheatley enclosed several poems in praise of the Continental Army’s commander, George Washington. In 1775, she sent George Washington a poem called, “To His Excellency, George Washington”. She later on received a call from George Washington to visit him at his headquarters in Cambridge. They both met in March of 1776. Several outstanding figures of the time admired her work including Benjamin Franklin, Brook Watson and of course George Washington. Self confidence in her African heritage was also apparent. Her writing style grasps the lamentation, likely from her African roots, where girls has to sing and perform funeral griefs. Religion was also a key authority, and it led Protestants in America and England to appreciate her work. Enslavers and abolitionists both read her work; to persuade the enslaved population to follow, the latest as proof of the intellectual capacity of people of color. Acknowledgement and profit of her work was a very important step for African American literature and Wheatley’s offering to it cannot be overestimated. A statue to praise Phillis Wheatley was uplifted at the Boston Women’s Memorial on the Commonwealth Avenue in 2003.
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