Phillis Wheatley Essay

2969 words - 12 pages

It can be argued that Phillis Wheatley has undoubtedly made significant contributions to literature on a grand scale. At the time that she began to showcase her talent for versifying poems, she was faced with the enslavement of her race. It can be argued to what extent someone is being held in slavery actually enslaved. It was inconceivable that a black slave female could achieve such a level of intellect that she was asked to verify that she actually did write her poems. Wheatley’s works have been critical in contrasting the assumption that African Americans were of inferior intellect. She was also criticized for not having her works make direct references to the abolition of slavery, and taking a more radical approach to addressing the institution. Wheatley, in her own right, did not need to take a radical approach to emphasize an anti-slavery message in her works. Through an analysis of the historical context of her poems we begin to see the consistencies and themes in her writing style, which helps readers to identify with the author. We can also identify with her use of religious inferences, classical citations, and unique use of language as instruments that not only highlight her heritage but provide a form of motivation in African American writers. This subtly sets the framework for an anti-slavery movement in her own distinctive way. Her works help to highlight how she is able to combine personal experiences and literary devices to establish her voice. Wheatley utilizes her poetry as an outlet to expose human frailty, and express her belief of racial and religious equivalence. Wheatley’s literature was essential in furthering the abolitionist movement. The goal and purpose of this movement was basically to put an end to slavery and immediately end all racial discrimination and segregation between blacks and whites. Radical abolitionism was partly fueled by the religion. Similar to the religious enthusiast of the Second Great Awakening, Wheatley became an indirect or maybe even a direct advocate for the emancipation of slaves on the grounds of religion and religious beliefs.
Phillis Wheatly was brought to America in 1761 and sold as a slave in Boston. At this point in her life it can be argued that as a slave, she was forced to contemplate much more intricate considerations such as her liberty and freedom. Phillis Wheatley was exposed and or transposed by the teachings of Reverend George Whitefield. Whitefield who was a well-known reverend was admired for his broad-mindedness and acceptance of individuals who were considered to be on the “outlying areas” of society. This like-mindedness with Phillis Wheatley is what drew her to him and in turn helped to influence her ideas. An example of this can be seen in her poem “On Being Brought from Africa to America.” In this poem Wheatley writes: “Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand.” This lends to the idea that Wheatley having been stolen from...

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