Slave Poet of Colonial America
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
(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 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.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Colonial Era • Women. A significant historical year for this entry is 1861.
Location. 36° 59.209′ N, 76° 24.733′ W. Marker is in Newport News, Virginia. Marker is on Orcutt Avenue. The marker is on the grounds of the YWCA. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2702 Orcutt Avenue, Newport News VA 23607, United States of America. Touch for directions.
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); Norvleate Downing-Gross (approx. 0.2 miles away); Ella Jane Fitzgerald (approx. 0.2 miles away); Annie Belle Daniels (approx. 0.3 miles away); Pearl Bailey (approx. 0.3 miles away); The Brown Center (approx.
Also see . . . Phillis Wheatley - Poetry Foundation. (Submitted on October 2, 2016, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.)
Credits. This page was last revised on February 27, 2021. It was originally submitted on October 1, 2016, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 423 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 1, 2016, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. 3. submitted on July 1, 2019, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.