“Snatched” (in her own words) from her parents in Gambia, Phillis Wheatley was brought to Boston as a slave at age seven.
Her owners’ children taught her to read, and in a few years she was writing poetry.
In 1773, at age 19, she became a celebrity after a book of her poems was printed in London. She was the first African American to publish a book.
Yet, even though Wheatley’s writing was encouraged by her mistress, she was not freed until after her book was published.
She continued to write, but died in poverty at age 31 after giving birth to her third child.