Phillis Wheatley

(1753 – 5 December 1784 / Gambia)

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One Being Brought From Africa To America


'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 now knew,
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
'Their colour is a diabolic die.'
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Edited: Saturday, April 26, 2003

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  • Rookie - 565 Points Francis Lynch (4/25/2014 10:21:00 AM)

    Don't like it. Too submissive. It's as if she lost her true self in the line: ... negroes... can be refin'd... I find this sentiment degrading. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 1 Points Beaton Galafa (4/25/2014 4:09:00 AM)

    This is an unneccessary escape from the realities of the black american's history. It's a move to christen the barbaric history of the whiteman. The God the persona claims to have known because of his forced migration to the US is the same God that propagates for justice and equality. Why would then one bother celebrate about knowing that God through such barbarism? (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,457 Points Douglas Scotney (4/25/2013 8:25:00 PM)

    Does anyone think that fourth line is wrong?
    Is it '...neither sought nor knew', or 'Once I sought not redemption, now knew.' (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,457 Points Kyrgiakos P (4/25/2013 8:20:00 PM)

    A great poem! An even greater poet! What an incredible life, so hard to imagine! .. Reminds me of so many things that are taken for granted, Inspiring. (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,526 Points Is It Poetry (4/25/2013 12:49:00 PM)

    And no concept from them
    to what they had.
    And in you.
    Mastered,
    and self taught,
    and pure the burning sun.
    No man
    can soon a queen forget.........ip (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 2 Points Okoye Charles Chukwudi (4/25/2012 4:47:00 AM)

    Very nice poem.....by Wheatley, a religious one I must say. And based on this religious aspect, i believe that the theme is to inspire empaty from the religious aspect.
    ...Remember Christian, Negroes, Black as cain,
    Maybe refined and join the angelic train.
    As a christian, i think i understand this line perfectly, negroes can be good, good as the white man...good as anyone.

    But as an african, i would hv luv to ask Wheatley, why we Negroes should be refined? ...is something wrong with us? Is being black a crime, a mortal sin or what? .
    Colonialism brought slavery, wars, racism and death. Africans were taught to abandon their gods, their pagan gods and ways. Segregation came in, catholics vs anglicians and so forth. We were thought our believes are quite inferior, leading to this last two verses of this poem...No, I dont think we need to be refined, I dont think we need to join any angelic train. For God created us equal, and he calls us in his own ways, be you a christian, a musilm, a jew, a buddist, a hundi, a pagan, black, white, yellow, indian etc. God created us equal, and anyone that tells you otherwise needs to be REFINED.
    I thank the missionary, who tried to improve the lives of Africans, I thank winterforce for his work in slave abolition and all other good-righteous white folks.
    But I think if any religion needs to be refined, it is my religion, 'Christianity'. I think if any race needs to be refined, it is surely the white race...and I am not a Rasist...nice poem again...perfect for religious sentiments and at that period of time....+ (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 315 Points Juan Olivarez (4/26/2011 9:08:00 AM)

    Tough beans huh, Spanish surname, nice racist comment claudia. Obviously you can, t see the forrest for the trees. My beef is not wit Dick Prucnicki's comment on the poem, it is his attacks on other poets, just like you are doing now. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Claudia Krizay (4/25/2011 9:25:00 PM)

    Mr. Olivarez why don't YOU get a life- I agree with Mr. Pruchnicki- I don't see bitterness- just because he isn't keen on this poem doesn't make him 'bitter.' life isn't always a bowl of cherries- just because someone doesn't agree with you it doesn't make them 'bitter'
    You better get used to the fact in this life that not everybody is going to agree with you and/or like the same things you do. And if they don't- that's life, and tough beans! ! ! Everybody has their right to express their opinion even if it isn't the same as yours! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 315 Points Juan Olivarez (4/25/2011 7:44:00 PM)

    I am simply stating what I believe the poet's meaning is Pruchnicki, why are you such a bitter person, did your wife leave you for a poet better than you, that would have been something real easy, or are you disappointed with your lot in life and must criticize others to get you mean fix. For Gods sake get a life. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Claudia Krizay (4/25/2011 4:36:00 PM)

    her writing may be praised by many others but ti is not my cup of tea. I think I have read enough of her writing- time to move on to bigger and better things- at least better things. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Claudia Krizay (4/25/2011 4:34:00 PM)

    I don't understand this poem but what I do understand of it which isn't much- I don't care for- (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Michael Pruchnicki (4/25/2011 3:48:00 PM)

    How some of us do go overboard on lavishing praise on a poem (at least according to Mr Olivarez) that could have been written by a 'civil rights leader! ' No matter that George Washington (a founding father of this republic and a comtemporary who recognized her skill and talent) praised her in the halls of power the world over - read well, Mr Craddock! lest you strain yourself in your attempt to latch on to her glory! Please go ahead and ignore the Christian missionaries, both lay and clerical, who worked from dawn to dusk improving both the lot of native Africans on their own soil! Sometimes those of us in this century look down on our saintly forebears who spent lifetimes helping those in need the world over. For Christ's sake, do not buy into the socialist and heathen beliefs of those who would do away with the lowly native, no matter his color or religion or lack thereof!

    Are whites as good as blacks, Juan and Terence? Say you aye or nay? That's the level you've brought this young woman's plaint to! You should both read more of current history - ask Stalin or Pol Pot how they would handle folks like Wheatley who objected to their rule? A bullet to the head would be merciful compared to the starvation that took so many lives in the 20th century! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 315 Points Juan Olivarez (4/25/2011 10:29:00 AM)

    To me a very simple poem to understand, she gives thanks for being brought to this country, and states that blacks can be as good as whites. She would have made an excellent civil rights leader. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Mohammad Akmal Nazir (4/25/2011 1:11:00 AM)

    The poem tells us about the inner struggle of blacks against the white people. It is a slap on the face of aparthied. God has created us equal. Noone is better than other except he who is pious. Loved to read the poem. Great poem. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Mohammad Akmal Nazir (4/25/2011 1:08:00 AM)

    The poem tells us about the inner struggle of blacks against the white people. It is a slap on the face of aparthied. God has created us equal. Noone is better than other except he who is pious. Loved to read the poem. Great poem. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Terence George Craddock (4/25/2010 1:30:00 PM)

    What else is there to say? The point no one has addressed, this poem is about slavery and Christianity, a driving force in ending the trade. Volumes have been written on this topic and with so many forms of slavery rampant worldwide today, volumes more need to be written.
    Wheatley remains extremely significant. Jupiter Hammon’s poem 'An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries' published in 1761 establishes him as the first published Black writer in America, with Poems on Various Subjects by Phillis Wheatley in 1773 next, however the poem 'Bars Fight' written in 1746 and finally published in 1855 by Lucy Terry, is the oldest known African American literature.
    However literature and writers, on over three hundred years of the triangular slave trade, would include Michael Wigglesworth in 1667, the London play 'Oroonoko' in 1695, Daniel Defoe writing against the trans-Atlantic slavetraders in 1702, Samuel Sewall the Boston Puritan in 1703, and the 1790s produced over 90 huge epic anti slavery poems and bitter verse attacks.
    Famous former slave traders like James Stanfield who wrote the epic 'The Guinea Voyage' in 1789, Thomas Branagan who sent 'Penitential Tyrant; or, Slave Trader Reformed' to President Thomas Jefferson in 1805; and the evangelist and abolitionist John Newton, who wrote hundreds of Christian Hyms including “Amazing Grace” in 1779.
    The canonical biblical poets: Dryden, Johnson, Cowper, Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge. Wordsworth and Coleridge, from college days until death wrote against slavery. Among over 40 women poets Anne Yearsley and Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, among over twenty black poets Phillis Wheatley, Olaudah Equiano, Jupiter Hammon, Francis Williams, Ignatius Sancho, George White, the 'Sable Bard' of 1797, 'Itaniko, ' of 1802.
    To quote Percy Bysshe Shelley “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Early American poets Joel Barlow, David Humphreys, Timothy Dwight, and Philip Freneau, all loathed slavery.
    ‘Please tell us the names of his (Robert Burns) contemporaries who inveighed against slavery in late 18th century England/Scotland! ’ Too many! In just three months in 1788 the House of Commons received over a 100 petitions attacking the slave trade. In 1792 William Wilberforce presented 519 petitions against slavery to the Commons, representing every county in England, significant contributions were made by Scotland and Wales. The vote in 1792 in the House being 230 votes to 85, to abolish slavery gradually.
    Therefore the names inveighed and writing against slavery, read like an honour role of English literature in the cause of freedom, reflecting what would be termed civil rights protesters by many in contemporary society. Let us not forget William Shakespeare’s choice of his hero Othello, the brilliant black Moor and the line in Shakespeare’s sonnet ‘She walks in beauty like the night’ to reflect the argument for his written upon anti slavery view. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 147 Points Ramesh T A (4/25/2010 3:24:00 AM)

    Nice little poem tells the facts of reality of life in the world very well! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 147 Points Joseph Poewhit (4/25/2009 8:56:00 AM)

    She understood the lineage of mankind from Adam & Eve to now, us the descendants of NOAH'S family from the ARK. Now around 9 billion from 8 persons - WOW (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 436 Points Sadiqullah Khan (4/25/2009 4:03:00 AM)

    Those who did it were not for Him, but for their own base designs, It was your own struggle towards emancipation that needs merit. (Report) Reply

Read all 23 comments »

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