December 5, 2018
Phillis rubbed her eyes as she climbed out of bed. Unable to sleep, words swirl in her head. She lit her lantern, grabbed her paper and quill pen. Then the words danced and flowed and swirled again.
While just a child of about seven years old, a little girl was either kidnapped or sold by a local chief to slave traders in West Africa. Brought to Boston, Massachusetts, on the boat The Phillis, she was sold to the local tailor and wealthy merchant, John Wheatley, on July 11, 1761. He purchased the young girl for his wife Susanna, despite her being a sickly child with asthma. Naming her after the ship she arrived on, Phillis, the Wheatley’s also gave her their last name, which was common practice at the time. (see The Forgotten Hero)
The family quickly noticed Phillis’ potential. Uncommon at that time, their 18-year-old daughter, Mary, began tutoring Phillis in reading and writing, using the Bible as their textbook. Phillis graduated to Greek, Latin, and theology by age 12, before advancing to ancient history, astronomy, modern geography, and mythology. Soon after, Phillis wrote her first poem, “To the University of Cambridge, in New England,” espousing Christianity and redemption through Jesus’ blood to Harvard College students. (see Higher Education)
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