Writer’s Quote Wednesday 2015

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My choice for Writer’s Quote this week is Phillis Wheatley.

An African-American Literature class I took back in the early 1970s introduced me to Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American to write a book of poetry, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral,” published on September 1, 1773.

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The poem that generated the most discussion in the class was Phillis Wheatley’s,One Being Brought from Africa to America”:

“TWAS mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand. That there’s a God, that there’s a Savior too:  Some view our sable race with scornful eye, ‘Their color is a diabolic die.”  Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, May be refined, and join the angelic train.”   

Most of the members in class voiced concern about statements like “mercy brought me from my Pagan land”, “benighted” and “Negroes, black as Cain.”

Casting a negative light on Africa and its people while giving thanks to those who captured and enslaved caused my former classmates to negatively review the poem.

But, I argued that this was a young woman captured and brought to this country as a slave, when she was 7-years-old.  She lived in the home of her slave owner with his wife and children until her marriage in 1778. Her privileged life was no comparison to the brutality suffered by most slaves.

Given this, I understood the rejection of an unknown people and country; and the acceptance of her known family and culture.

She was grateful to her rescuers, providers, protectors and educators and expressed it in this poem, “TWAS mercy brought me from my Pagan land.

Phillis Wheatley died in 1778, at the young age of 31.

 For more information on Phillis Wheatley visit:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/phillis-wheatley

9 thoughts on “Writer’s Quote Wednesday 2015

  1. What a beautiful quote. In my college American History class we talked about how Black Americans were made to feel inferior by the White landowners using them as slaves. Historically, Whites were afraid of the Blacks because of their great strength and tenacity. This fear encouraged White men to cast a negative light on the entire race as a way to control them. Phyllis Wheatley is correct in her assumption that all humans are entitled to the same graces under God. Thank you for sharing such an emotional poem. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand both the reaction of your classmates and the perspective that you are sharing. The part that I reacted most to was “May be refined, and join the angelic train.”

    She died so young yet will be remembered forever because people like you are letting us know about her. I am so glad you took the class in the 70’s.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Writer’s Quote Wednesday Weekly Wrap-Up | Silver Threading

  4. she was wonderfully blessed to have been taught both to read and to write and in turn she blesses the lives of others. I think being a white woman makes it more difficult to comprehend, so honesty text is an enlightenment i am grateful for.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is so true. And. I think there are different levels of hatred. The one that is most damning is self-hatred which causes us to not only hate ourselves but others. Hatred in any form is wrong. I very much appreciate your comments. Than you.

      Like

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