Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral

by Phillis Wheatley
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  • Describe the unusual circumstances that led to Phillis Wheatley's publication of her collection, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.
  • Identify specific lines from Wheatley's poem in which she describes the horror of enslavement.
  • Why did Wheatley dedicate this work to the Earl of Dartmouth?
  • Create a two-columned chart. Citing passages from either the excerpt or the full poem, in one column identify passages that describe Wheatley's personal experience; in the other column identify corresponding passages that describe an experience of the American colonists.
  • Carefully examine the frontispiece of Wheatley's book. Why would her image and the wording surrounding her portrait be unusual at the time of publication?
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    Well, the publication of Wheatley's collection of poems was highly unusual because she was only the second woman to be published in what would soon become the United States of America. Further, no black author had yet been published from the colonies, and, moreover, she was still a slave when...

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    Well, the publication of Wheatley's collection of poems was highly unusual because she was only the second woman to be published in what would soon become the United States of America. Further, no black author had yet been published from the colonies, and, moreover, she was still a slave when the book was published.

    Even more unusual is that Wheatley herself was interviewed by over a dozen white men in Boston, including John Hancock, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as several other prominent local ministers. They wrote a letter to the general public, which was printed in the book, attesting to their belief that she was capable of having produced the poems the book contains. In other words, she had to undergo questioning in order to prove that she was smart and articulate enough to have written the works herself!

    We can only address one question per post, but you are most welcome to submit the others separately. I hope this helps!

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