October 18

October 18, 1775 – Phillis Wheatley Freed From Slavery

Phillis Wheatley frontispiece

Image of Phillis Wheatley

On October 18, 1775, Phillis Wheatley, the country’s first African American poet to publish a book was freed from slavery. Wheatley was born in West Africa and sold as a slave at age seven to the Wheatley family in Boston, Massachusetts. She received assistance from John Wheatley and his daughters in learning how to read.  She became proficient not only in English, but she could also read Greek and Latin. Her reading and writing skills aided her into becoming a poet at a young age.  “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral”. was published In 1773 by Wheatley.   She was recognized in the American Colonies and England for her poetic talents.  In 1775 when John Wheatley died, Phillis Wheatley was given her freedom.  She died on December 5, 1784 in Boston at age 31.