Indeed, at the time, blacks were thought to be spiritually evil and thus incapable of salvation because of their skin color. Began Writing at an Early Age Recently, critics like James Levernier have tried to provide a more balanced view of Wheatley's achievement by studying her style within its historical context. The inclusion of the white prejudice in the poem is very effective, for it creates two effects. If the "angelic train" of her song actually enacts or performs her argument—that an African-American can be trained (taught to understand) the refinements of religion and art—it carries a still more subtle suggestion of self-authorization. How is it that she was saved? This line is meaningful to an Evangelical Christian because one's soul needs to be in a state of grace, or sanctified by Christ, upon leaving the earth. Write an essay and give evidence for your findings from the poems and letters and the history known about her life. The excuse for her race being enslaved is that it is thought to be evil and without a chance for salvation; by asserting that the black race is as competent for and deserving of salvation as any other, the justification for slavery is refuted, for it cannot be right to treat other divine souls as property. Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA). But, in addition, the word sets up the ideological enlightenment that Wheatley hopes will occur in the second stanza, when the speaker turns the tables on the audience. The image of night is used here primarily in a Christian sense to convey ignorance or sin, but it might also suggest skin color, as some readers feel. "On Being Brought from Africa to America Phillis Wheatley And A Summary of On Being Brought From Africa to America. — Additional information about Wheatley's life, upbringing, and education, including resources for further research. In this essay, Gates explores the philosophical discussions of race in the eighteenth century, summarizing arguments of David Hume, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson on the nature of "the Negro," and how they affected the reception of Wheatley's poetry. On Being Brought From Africa to America Phillis Wheatley : 1 : On Being Brought From Africa to America. Wheatley, Phillis, Complete Writings, edited by Vincent Carretta, Penguin Books, 2001. Phillis Wheatley Peters, also spelled Phyllis and Wheatly (c. 1753 – December 5, 1784) was the first African-American author of a published book of poetry. This latter point refutes the notion, held by many of Wheatley's contemporaries, that Cain, marked by God, is the progenitor of the black race only. In this poem Wheatley gives her white readers argumentative and artistic proof; and she gives her black readers an example of how to appropriate biblical ground to self-empower their similar development of religious and cultural refinement. In these ways, then, the biblical and aesthetic subtleties of Wheatley's poem make her case about refinement. 2, December 1975, pp. Baker, Houston A., Jr., Workings of the Spirit: The Poetics of Afro-American Women's Writing, University of Chicago Press, 1991. They signed their names to a document, and on that basis Wheatley was able to publish in London, though not in Boston. As such, though she inherited the Puritan sense of original sin and resignation in death, she focuses on the element of comfort for the bereaved. The European colonization of the Americas inspired a desire for cheap labor for the development of the land. Wheatley’s work is convincing based on its content. Response to Jenn's Prompt: What is the most prominent feeling (or emotion) presented by Wheatley here? Encyclopedia.com. Unlike Wheatley, her success continues to increase, and she is one of the richest people in America. Phillis lived for a time with the married Wheatley daughter in Providence, but then she married a free black man from Boston, John Peters, in 1778. The first allusion occurs in the word refin'd. Thus, John Wheatley collected a council of prominent and learned men from Boston to testify to Phillis Wheatley's authenticity. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem. A poem first published in 1773. The poet quickly and ably turns into a moral teacher, explaining as to her backward American friends the meaning of their own religion. Wheatley may also be using the rhetorical device of bringing up the opponent's worst criticism in order to defuse it. The poem uses the principles of Protestant meditation, which include contemplating various Christian themes like one's own death or salvation. These lines can be read to say that Christians—Wheatley uses the term Christians to refer to the white race—should remember that the black race is also a recipient of spiritual refinement; but these same lines can also be read to suggest that Christians should remember that in a spiritual sense both white and black people are the sin-darkened descendants of Cain. In the poem, she gives thanks for having been brought to America, where she was raised to be a Christian. Susanna Wheatley, her mistress, became a second mother to her, and Wheatley adopted her mistress's religion as her own, thus winning praise in the Boston of her day as being both an intelligent and spiritual being. She had not been able to publish her second volume of poems, and it is thought that Peters sold the manuscript for cash. The poem describes Wheatley's experience as a young girl who was enslaved and brought to the American colonies in 1761. © 2019 Encyclopedia.com | All rights reserved. While Wheatley included some traditional elements of the elegy, or praise for the dead, in "On Being Brought from Africa to America," she primarily combines sermon and meditation techniques in the poem. If allowances have finally been made for her difficult position as a slave in Revolutionary Boston, black readers and critics still have not forgiven her the literary sin of writing to white patrons in neoclassical couplets. Betsy Erkkila describes this strategy as "a form of mimesis that mimics and mocks in the act of repeating" ("Revolutionary" 206). Author This is a chronological anthology of black women writers from the colonial era through the Civil War and Reconstruction and into the early twentieth century. Deonca Pierce ENG 350 American Literature I 2 September 2011 Response paper 3: “On Being Brought from Africa to America” To the literary world, Phillis Wheatley is recognized as the first black American poet (Archiving Early America, 2011). Phillis Wheatley's poem "On Being Brought from Africa to America" appeared in her 1773 volume Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, the first full-length published work by an African American author. 'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand That there's a … From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. Benjamin Rush, a prominent abolitionist, holds that Wheatley's "singular genius and accomplishments are such as not only do honor to her sex, but to human nature." The African-American’s place in society has been and still is a sensitive issue in America. As the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry, Wheatley uses this poem to argue that all people, regardless of race, are capable of finding salvation through Christianity. On Being Brought from Africa to America Summary & Analysis. The final and highly ironic demonstration of otherness, of course, would be one's failure to understand the very poem that enacts this strategy. 215-33. William Robinson, in Phillis Wheatley and Her Writings, brings up the story that Wheatley remembered of her African mother pouring out water in a sunrise ritual. In this verse, however, Wheatley has adeptly managed biblical allusions to do more than serve as authorizations for her writing; as finally managed in her poem, these allusions also become sites where this license is transformed into an artistry that in effect becomes exemplarily self-authorized. — A discussion of Phillis Wheatley's controversial status within the African American community. That this self-validating woman was a black slave makes this confiscation of ministerial role even more singular. On Being Brought From Africa to America is an unusual poem because it was written by a black woman who was a slave back in the days when black people could be bought and sold at will by white owners.. A single stanza of eight lines, with full rhyme and classic iambic pentameter beat, it basically says that black … Both black and white critics have wrestled with placing her properly in either American studies or African American studies. She was taught to read and write. The line leads the reader to reflect that Wheatley was not as naive, or as shielded from prejudice, as some have thought. Describe the person whom you take to be addressed by this poem, what it hopes to persuade that person of, and how it goes about persuading her or him. About blacks as Christians? 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