• Phillis Wheatley was the first African American and the third woman in America to publish a book.
  • Phillis was the first African American woman to make a living from her writings.
  • Her writing was so exquisite that Bostonians did not believe she was the author of her work. A panel of 17 notable Bostonians verified her writing.
  • Phillis was named after the slave ship that brought her to America.
  • When she was baptized she adopted her master’s last name, Wheatley.
  • We do not know exactly when and where Phillis was born. Historians believe that she was born around 1753 in Western Africa, modern day Gambia or Senegal.
  • She was frail and had poor health during her entire life, she died at age 31.
  • She did not speak English when she came to the Wheatley family.
  • She was a precocious learner. She learned English, Latin, Greek and English literature. The Bible was her favorite book. She was reading the Bible within 18 months of her arrival in America.
  • Publishers in Boston refused to publish a book by a slave.
  • Phillis acquired her freedom in 1778 when John Wheatley died.
  • Her husband was incarcerated for debt.
  • She died in poverty at age 31.



Read more about facts of African American heroes:

Frederick Douglass

Harriet Tubman 

Crispus Attucks


Next – Timeline of the life of Phillis Wheatley>>