What Impact Did Phillis Wheatley Have on American History?

Phillis Wheatley is one of the most significant figures in American history. Born in West Africa, she was taken from her homeland at the age of seven and sold into slavery in Boston.

Despite being brought up in an environment that denied her access to education, she became the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry. In this article, we’ll explore the impact that Phillis Wheatley had on American history.

Early Life and Education

Phillis Wheatley was born in Senegal or Gambia in West Africa around 1753. She was kidnapped by slave traders when she was only seven years old and brought to Boston on a slave ship called The Phillis. She was sold to John Wheatley, a wealthy merchant who owned a large estate in Boston.

The Wheatleys recognized Phillis’ intelligence and potential, so they gave her an education that was uncommon for slaves at that time. They taught her how to read and write English, Latin, and Greek. By the age of 12, Phillis had written her first poem.

The Publication of ‘Poems on Various Subjects’

In 1773, when Phillis was just 20 years old, she published her first book of poetry titled ‘Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.’ This made her the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry.

The book included poems about religion, morality, freedom, and slavery. It received widespread acclaim both in America and Europe. Many people were amazed that a woman who had been enslaved could produce such high-quality literature.

The Impact of Phillis Wheatley’s Writing

Phillis Wheatley’s writing had a significant impact on American literature and culture. Her work challenged the prevailing notion that black people were intellectually inferior to white people. It also highlighted the hypocrisy of slave owners who claimed to be Christian while owning slaves.

Her poetry was widely read and admired by notable figures of the time, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Voltaire. Her writing was also an inspiration to other African American writers who came after her, such as Frederick Douglass and Langston Hughes.


In conclusion, Phillis Wheatley’s impact on American history cannot be overstated. She broke down barriers and challenged stereotypes with her writing.

Her work paved the way for other marginalized voices to be heard in American literature and culture. Today, she is remembered as a trailblazer who overcame incredible odds to make a significant contribution to American history.