Phyllis Wheatley, slave and poetess
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On this day in 1773 Phyllis Wheatley became the first female African born slave to become a published poet.
Born in West Africa she was sold into slavery aged seven and named Phyllis after the ship that took her to America.
Her poetry was praised by George Washington, King George III and Voltaire. Phyllis lived in Boston as a slave of the Wheatley family who gave her a good education and eventually, her freedom. She visited London and married but her life seems to have gone wrong and she died in poverty aged only 31.
Here is her poem, An Hymn to the Morning:
Attend my lays, ye ever honour’d nine,
Assist my labours, and my strains refine;
In smoothest numbers pour the notes along,
For bright Aurora now demands my song.
Aurora hail, and all the thousand dies,
Which deck thy progress through the vaulted skies:
The morn awakes, and wide extends her rays,
On ev’ry leaf the gentle zephyr plays;
Harmonious lays the feather’d race resume,
Dart the bright eye, and shake the painted plume.
Ye shady groves, your verdant gloom display
To shield your poet from the burning day:
Calliope awake the sacred lyre,
While thy fair sisters fan the pleasing fire:
The bow’rs, the gales, the variegated skies
In all their pleasures in my bosom rise.
See in the east th’ illustrious king of day!
His rising radiance drives the shades away –
But Oh! I feel his fervid beams too strong,
And scarce begun, concludes th’ abortive song.
Today I give thanks for brave people like Phyllis Wheatley who are not afraid to face new challenges and to try new things.