Phillis Wheatley

(2370 words)

Phillis Wheatley’s importance, as the first black American to publish a book in English, has never been in question. In her own time, the publication of her book of 38 poems cast doubt upon the belief that blacks were culturally inferior and mentally incapable of producing great literature. In the modern era, she is recognized for simultaneously beginning the African-American and the African-American women’s literary traditions. However, since its publication, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (London, 1773), Wheatley’s sole book of poetry (written before she was twenty), has been controversial. While some critics have argued that the poetry is imitative and controlled by the white value system, …

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De Grave, Kathleen. "Phillis Wheatley". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 26 September 2006
[, accessed 01 July 2015.]