Phillis Wheatley Questions and Answers

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What prevailing sentiments of the time period are reflected in Phillis Wheatley's poems?

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Perhaps the most significant prevailing sentiments found in Wheatley’s poems involve the American Revolution, slavery, and Christianity. While offering initial praise through a poem to King George III for his repeal of the Stamp Act (“To the King's Most Excellent Majesty”), Wheatley later addressed George Washington in a poem that, among others she wrote during the Revolution, staunchly supported the colonists and their cause for freedom from England (“His Excellency General Washington“).

Wheatley was a slave born in West Africa and brought to North America as a young child. She did not often write about slavery, but what she did write is significant for its unique perspective. In "On Being Brought from Africa to America," Wheatley saw slavery as a kind of gift without which she would not have been introduced to her Christian faith. However, elsewhere she expresses the terrors of the slave trade (e.g. “To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth”).

Wheatley also wrote about her Christian faith, including a tribute to the traveling evangelist George Whitfield (“On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield”). This and other poems expressed a kind of spiritual unity that both whites and blacks could have, despite the color of their skin. 

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