Phillis Wheatley, First African-American Poet

Is your surname Wheatley?

Research the Wheatley family

Phillis Wheatley, First African-American Poet's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Phillis Wheatley, First African-American Poet

Also Known As: "First African-American to publish a book", "Slave of the Wheatley family of Boston"
Birthdate: (31)
Birthplace: conglomeration of Senegal and Gambia, Senegambia, West Africa, Africa
Death: December 5, 1784 (31)
London, England (Child Birthing complications, Pneumonia and Post Natal Infections, contributory)
Place of Burial: Boston, Massachussetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Wife of John Peters, (a Freeman)
Mother of Mary Peters; Eliza Peters and George Peters

Occupation: Poet, Skullery Maid (lowest ranking kitchen assistant)
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

About Phillis Wheatley, First African-American Poet

'Phillis Wheatley

this profile to Honor her life and her poetry

Phillis was ''''''purchased by the Wheatley family (John & Susanna Wheatley) of Boston, Massachussetts, USA.

(Wheatley- a Bostonian Merchant and Tailor)

The family noticed her "talents" and Phillis was taught to read and write.

(tutored by daughter Mary Wheatley and son Nathaniel)

By age 12, Phillis could read Greek and Latin Literature and difficult passages from the Holy Bible.
One eventful day, Phillis began to write letters with a lump of coal substituted for a writting instrument. One of the household slaves went to tell on Phillis.
Instead of anger, Phillis was encouraged by a smile from Susannah Wheatley.
Her ''gift'' of ''poetic prose'' was encouraged by the Wheatly family.
Kidnapped from her Senegambian, Africa homeland, Phillis arrived in Boston on the Ship: ''''''Phillis 7/11/1761

1768- writes "To the Kings Most Excellent Majesty" (for King George III for repealing the stamp act)

1770- writes poetic tribute to Evangelist George Whitefield

1772-Phillis defends her good name in a Boston Court as the genuine author of her poetry (It was hard for White Americans to believe a Negro Slave could create poetry. At the conclusion of her hearing, then Lt. Governor Andrew Oliver finds her as the genuine author)

1773- visits London- some of her works were published there.

1775- publishes a poem "To His Excellency George Washington" (Thomas Paine publishes in the Pennsylvania Gazette)

1778-Emancipated from Slavery

Poems by Phillis Wheatley

"An Address to the Athiest" "To the Kings Most Excellent Majesty" "Atheisim" "An Elegaic Poem On the Death of that Celebrated Divine, and Eminent Servant of JESUS CHRIST, the Reverand and Learned Mr. George Whitefield" "A Poem On the Death of Charles Eliot" "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral" "To His Honor the Lieutenant Governor on the death of his Lady" "An Elegy, To Miss Mary Moorhead, On the Death of her Father, The Reverand Mr. John Morehead" others

Spouse: John Peters

Children: 3 known children. 2 lost at infancy Mary and Eliza and 1 additional son George ['s_children's_names]

view all

Phillis Wheatley, First African-American Poet's Timeline

May 8, 1753
Senegambia, West Africa, Africa
December 5, 1784
Age 31
London, England
Boston, Massachussetts, United States