Chronological events in the life of Phillis Wheatley.
Phillis Wheatley was born in Gambia or Senegal, Africa.
Captured in Africa and transported to America in the slave ship Phillis. Phillis arrived in America on July 11, 1761.
She was sold to John Wheatley from Boston, Massachusetts to work as a maid for his wife Susanna.
Phillis was baptized and named after the ship that brought her to America, Phillis.
Phillis showed intelligence and curiosity for books. She was taught to read and write by Susanna and her daughter Mary Wheatley.
Phillis Wheatley wrote “An Address to the Atheist” and “An Address to the Deist.”
Published her first poem “On Messrs Hussey and Coffin” in the Newport Mercury.
Wheatley wrote “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” praising King George III for repealing the Stamp Act.
Wheatley wrote her poem, “Atheism” which resembles “An Address to the Atheist” written two years earlier.
Phillis became known for her poetry after writing a tribute to George Whitefield, “An Elegiac Poem On the Death of that celebrated Divine, and eminent Servant of Jesus Christ, the Reverend and Learned Mr. George Whitefield”. He was a popular evangelist who was the chaplain of Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon, who was to become Phillis’ patron.
Phillis Wheatley defended her authorship in court. Seventeen men in Boston including John Hancock, John Ervin, Thomas Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver, wrote an attestation that Phillis Wheatley was the author of her work.
Phillis Wheatley traveled to London where her first book “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” was published. The book contains thirty nine poems. The front of the first edition shows an engraving of Wheatley by Scipio Moorhead, the slave of John Moorhead. The book was financed by Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon.
Wheatley was manumitted but continued to live with the Wheatleys.
Susanna Wheatley’s illness required Phillis to return from London.
Susanna Wheatley died.
Phillis Wheatley wrote a poem “To His Excellency, George Washington”, she praised his heroism and supports the Revolutionary War.
George Washington invited Phillis to his home for a private reading to thank her for the poem.
John Wheatley, Phillis’ master, died.
Phillis married John Peters, a free black man, with whom she had three children.
Wheatley wrote “An Elegy, Sacred to the Memory of the Great Divine, the Reverend and the Learned Dr. Samuel Cooper”. Cooper was a pastor in the Brattle Square Church and was an active supporter in the revolution. Weatley wrote this poem not too long before her death.
John Peters was incarcerated for unpaid debts.
Phillis found work in a boardinghouse.
On December 5th, Phillis Wheatley died at age 31.
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