Phillis Wheatley

In 1773, Phillis Wheatley became the first Black person and the second woman to publish a book of poetry in, what was becoming, the United States of America. An enslaved woman from the Gambia, she was one of the best-known poets in pre-19th century America. She read the Bible, astronomy, geography, history, British literature (particularly John Milton and Alexander Pope), and the Greek and Latin classics of Virgil, Ovid, Terence, and Homer and she used her poetry as a way to question political and social injustices.

In 1776, Wheatley wrote a letter and poem in support of George Washington, who replied with an invitation to visit him in Cambridge, stating that he would be “happy to see a person so favored by the muses.” (