Black History Month Day 1.
On Being Brought from Africa to America
By Phillis Wheatley
‘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.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
This poem is in Public Domain.
2 thoughts on “Phillis Wheatley”
How does this poem by Phillis Wheatley work for a reader in 2021? Does Wheatley’s embrace of Christianity tell us that she is denying her African heritage? Can we talk about the poem without accepting or
condemning its”meaning?” Who does meaning belong to…? Poet or
reader? I wonder what Wheatley would comment to day
about her poem. How wonderful her work is here with us, and
we can read her poetry and think about who Phillis Wheatley was. Could she be who she was today?
Thank you Pratibha and thank you Phillis!
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Patricia, thank you for your thoughtful response. I feel that a poet’s work should be appreciated keeping in mind the social and political milieu he/she existed and survived. We can’t apply 2021 thinking to the poem written in an oppressive time in history. Imagine if her master hadn’t taught her English and helped her publish. It was a small beginning, but great things aren’t accomplished later with these small steps.