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Frontispiece and Title Page from Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773.
An engraving of poet Phillis Wheatley from her book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral

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Phillis Wheatley, the First African American Published Book of Poetry
September 1, 1773

Phillis Wheatley was only seven or eight years old when she was captured and taken from her home in West Africa. A slave ship brought her to Boston in 1761. Knowing nothing of the talents she would soon show the world, John Wheatley, a prosperous tailor, and his wife, Susanna, purchased the young girl directly from the ship and named her Phillis Wheatley.

Wheatley grew up to be a poet. Her collection, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was published on September 1, 1773. How did she become the first African American writer to publish a book of poetry, when most slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write?

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