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Historically Unheard: Phillis Wheatley

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

Phillis Wheatley was a remarkable women who paved the way for many poets. She was the first African American to publish a collection of poetry. There are many articles about her life, legacy and work. If you want to learn more about her I would recommend reading these articles-

“Wheatley has remained a controversial figure in the black community due to the lack of race consciousness in her poems. However, during the past few decades, scholars have argued that this silence was both ingrained from her masters and necessary for survival.”

“Wheatley Peters wrote perhaps 145 poems (most of which would have been published if the encouragers she begged for had come forth to support the second volume), but this artistic heritage is now lost, probably abandoned during Peters’s quest for subsistence after her death. Of the numerous letters she wrote to national and international political and religious leaders, some two dozen notes and letters are extant. As an exhibition of African intelligence, exploitable by members of the enlightenment movement, by evangelical Christians, and by other abolitionists, she was perhaps recognized even more in England and Europe than in America.”

“American poet Phillis Wheatley spent the majority of her life embroiled in a clash of cultures. Her poetry revealed much about colonial society in eighteenth century New England and its hierarchal relationships.”

We wanted her to be our first poet of this collection becouse she was a trail blazer, and although her legacy is a complicated one the impact she had on poetry is undeniable. Historically Unheard is about showcasing poets from marginalised groups. Many people write poetry and always have, and the fact that this feels odd to write is a testament to the stigma surrounding poetry in many people’s minds (including mine). We hope that throughout this series more of us feel entitled to write and edge with poetry.

We translate the poems into video, images and text becouse we all learn in different ways, so it makes sense to present the poems in different way, we hope this enables more people to engage and enjoy with poetry.

The Poem

The Video

The Portrait by Abbi Bayliss (@)

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