Phillis Wheatley

Born: 8th May 1753

Died: 5th December 1784

Birth Place: South Africa

Known for: Being the first African American author of a book of poetry.

Phillis Wheatley travelled to America from Africa on a slave ship that was called The Phillis.

George Washington wrote to thank her for the poem she published about him.

She was the first African American person to author a book

In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance.

Phillis Wheatley

Life story


Early life


Phillis Wheatley is famous for being the first African American author of a book of poetry. Born in West Africa, Wheatley was enslaved at the age of seven or eight and taken to the United States, where a family in Boston owned her. She learnt to read and write and started writing poetry, and it became clear she was very talented.


In 1767,  a newspaper published one of Wheatley’s poems. Three years later, a poem that she wrote was published throughout North America and England. Wheatley became famous.


Published poet


Wheatley’s passion for poetry meant that by 1773, she had enough poems to create a book of all her work called Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. This book was published in England. The success of the book allowed Wheatley to travel to England, where her work was welcomed and respected.


Although she was successful and famous, Wheatley was still enslaved. When she went to England, she was set free. Some of her work could not be published because Americans treated enslaved people very badly, and her ideas were not liked by those in power in the U.S. As the first African American to write a book, Wheatley’s work proved to many that Black people could be talented creative writers.

What did Phillis Wheatley become famous for writing? What was Phillis Wheatley the first African American person to write? What did Phillis Wheatley’s writing show the world?

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