“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Newport News, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Phillis Wheatley

Slave Poet of Colonial America

Phillis Wheatley Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, September 21, 2016
1. Phillis Wheatley Marker
Inscription. Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753-1784) was America’s first black published poet. Born in Africa, she was brought to Boston in 1861 and sold to merchant John Wheatley as a servant for his wife. Phillis was tutored by her progressive owners and received an unprecedented education. By the age of twelve, she was reading Greek and Latin classics as well as difficult passages from the Bible. At thirteen, she wrote her first poem and became a sensation. Amazed by her literary ability, the Wheatley family exempted her from household labor to concentrate on her studies.

In 1773, she was sent to London to recover her health. While there, a collection of her work was published as Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, the first book by an African American. Her 1775 poem celebrating George Washington resulted in an invitation to his home and attention from Thomas Jefferson. As a strong supporter of independence during the American Revolution, she championed the end of slavery. In 1778, Wheatley was legally freed by her master’s will. She died in 1784, at age 31. Phillis Wheatley is highly regarded today as she marks the beginning of the genre of African American literature.

(Inscription under the image in the upper right)
Since 1942, the Phillis Wheatley branch of the YWCA has been a staple in the East End community. It began operations

Phillis Wheatley Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, September 21, 2016
2. Phillis Wheatley Marker
in the Women’s Community House at 842 Hampton Avenue. In 1948, an expanded center at 2702 Orcutt Avenue was dedicated. Destroyed by fire in 1961, it was rebuilt after a rousing fund drive at a cost of $60,000. The YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
Location. 36° 59.209′ N, 76° 24.733′ W. Marker is in Newport News, Virginia. Marker is on Orcutt Avenue. Click for map. The marker is on the grounds of the YWCA. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2702 Orcutt Avenue, Newport News VA 23607, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Pearl Mae Bailey (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Annie Belle Daniels (approx. 0.3 miles away); Ella Fitzgerald (approx. half a mile away); Newsome House (approx. half a mile away); a different marker also named The Newsome House (approx. half a mile away); The Clark Oak (approx. 0.6 miles away); Gregory Cherry (approx. 0.6 miles away); James A. Fields House (approx. 0.6 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Newport News.
Also see . . .  Phillis Wheatley - Poetry Foundation. (Submitted on October 2, 2016, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.)
Categories. African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicColonial Era
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. This page has been viewed 147 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on , by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on October 2, 2016.
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