Wheatley’s Poem On Being Brought from Africa to America Essays

1892 Words8 Pages
Wheatley’s poem, “On Being Brought from Africa to America” is part of a set of works that Henry Louis Gates Jr. recognized as a historically significant literary contribution for black Americans and black women (Baym et al. 752). Addressed to the Christians who participated in the slave trade, the poem is meant to reveal the inconsistencies between their actions and the Christian Ideal. Whether perceived as a work of sincerity or a work of irony, the poem conveys the message that an individual’s behaviors are influenced by the examples of others and that all people are equal. Understanding Phillis Wheatley’s intent in her poem, “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” is gained by considering all of the aspects of her existence when…show more content…
771). Phillis Wheatley died on December 5, 1784, from complications during the birth of her third child (771). Phillis Wheatley’s entrance into America was a terrifying ordeal. The young girl arrived as an “ailing, emaciated, and nearly naked” (Puckett 277-78) slave. Wheatley recounts the frightening event in her poem, “To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth,” in which she writes: I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate Was snatch’d from Afric’s fancy’d happy seat; What pangs excruciatingly must molest, What sorrows labour in my parent’s breast? (Wheatley and Odell 75) Although Phillis Wheatley was purchased as a slave, her intelligence and talent granted her privileges that were atypical of ordinary slaves (Puckett 278). The Wheatley family “consistently maintained a permissive, compassionate attitude toward the girl” (278) and Phillis’ place in the family was more “akin to that of a daughter” (278) rather than a slave. Phillis Wheatley’s education was “steeped in biblical teachings” (280) and she demonstrated a special interest in the Bible, not simply “for spiritual and literary” (280) reasons, but for “hope in a future where justice might prevail” (280). Phillis Wheatley’s poem, “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” is rich with poetic and literary devices such as symbolism and metaphor and the poem in its entirety can be observed as a
Get Access