Phyllis Wheatley was the first African-American to be published in America. She was also a slave.
She was sold into slavery at the age of 7. Her owners educated her with their children, and encouraged her talents, and in 1773 she published this book of poetry. Not believing that she could actually have produced this on her own, she was actually quizzed and tested by a panel who ended up saying she had proved that she wrote the poems.
She was freed in 1774 and died in 1784 at the age of 31.
Two reminders: (1) Phillis Wheatley is a perfect example of how slavery was not just an institution of the south, but could be found throughout the colonies. (2) Thomas Jefferson was outspoken among those who tried to accuse her and her owners of being frauds, insisting that no member of the African race could possibly have the mental faculty to produce such beautiful written works in English. Jefferson also went on to say “The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism.”