Comments

  1. DLC says

    They should have done. She should be standing right there with Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas and many others.

  2. ridana says

    As remarkable and amazing as her story is, she seems to have bought the slavers’ propaganda wholecloth, referring to her homeland in more than one poem as a “dark abode.”

    ‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
    Taught my benighted soul to understand
    That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
    Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

    ‘Twas not long since I left my native shore
    The land of errors, and Egyptian gloom:
    Father of mercy, ’twas thy gracious hand
    Brought me in safety from those dark abodes.

    She also was deeply indoctrinated into Christianity, which I suppose I can’t fault her for under her circumstances. Comfort where you find it, I guess. Not sure how comforting this poem was to the parents who lost their five year old.

    On the kind bosom of eternal love
    She finds unknown beatitude above.
    This known, ye parents, nor her loss deplore,
    She feels the iron hand of pain no more;
    The dispensations of unerring grace,
    Should turn your sorrows into grateful praise;

    Freed from a world of sin, and snares, and pain,
    Why would you wish your daughter back again?
    No—bow resign’d. Let hope your grief control,
    And check the rising tumult of the soul.
    Calm in the prosperous, and adverse day,
    Adore the God who gives and takes away;
    Eye him in all, his holy name revere,
    Upright your actions, and your hearts sincere,
    Till having sail’d through life’s tempestuous sea,
    And from its rocks, and boist’rous billows free,
    Yourselves, safe landed on the blissful shore,
    Shall join your happy babe to part no more.

    On the other hand, her “On Imagination.” is really beautiful, and I kinda got a kick out of her poem about sailing to England (and apparently getting really seasick on the way, only to be confronted with London fog).

  3. pilgham says

    Looking at google books, she seems to be in books in the 19th century but disappears around the time the DOC were putting up all those confederate statues in the second decade of the twentieth century. She comes back in the 1970’s. And yeah, it’s the first I’ve heard of her. I did learn about Crispus Attucks in school, FWIW.

  4. PaulBC says

    No, I hadn’t heard of Phillis Wheatley and I’m happy to have heard now.

    I guess it’s an obvious point, but whenever I hear about people like Wheatley I think of the atrocity of forbidding black slaves to learn how to read and write. Shouldn’t this have been an enormous giveaway that the entire basis of chattel slavery was built on a lie?

    (Aside: her story is certainly fascinating, but not really up there with Frederick Douglass, who was one of the great political writers and orators of the 19th century. I used to have a little alternative history fantasy in my head where Douglass becomes the first president of a free and unified Ireland. Not likely, but he did make the acquaintance of Daniel O’Connell, and was treated better in Ireland than in the US (which was racist I’m sure but hadn’t built it up into an elaborate social theory). It was going to be predicated on Thomas Davis recovering from scarlet fever and meeting Douglass, also possibly a somewhat mitigated potato famine. Maybe a better writer than I could do it.)

  5. unclefrogy says

    She is an example of why it was not legal to teach african slaves to read and write. What makes her stand out is she was taught and clearly showed her humanity and the depth of her equality. The slavers knew that if everyone found out that the equality on man was true including the slaves their privileged position was over. Ignorance is one of the most important tools of despotism.
    It was her christianity that in part saved her from destruction and the luck of finding a place and time where some one allowed her to learn.
    her ability was not unique only her path how many great minds have been lost no one will ever know. How many today are being lost?
    I never heard of her before today either
    thank you for that shining light a good start for the day.
    uncle frogy

  6. enkidu says

    I had heard of her, even in far off Aotearoa. But only as a name, an American writer.

    I had no idea she was black, or a slave, I guess those points are not over emphasised. I probably envisioned her as a genteel lady versifier. Thank for this, I will remember her now.

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