Foreword by award-winning poet Nikki Giovanni!
“Phillis Wheatley is the mother of the African American literary tradition and ‘the sable muse’ of the American Revolution. With this masterful biography, she will be restored to her rightful place as a major figure in the intellectual history of the fledgling American Republic. Every student and scholar of American literature should read this well-written and carefully researched biography.”—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University
"She had to learn another language, not just to speak, but to express her heart.... I think this book should be read by every poet—to remind us how precious our freedom really is."--Nikki Giovani, African-American Poet, Distinguished University Professor, Virginia Tech, best-selling author, and winner of 7 NAACP Image Awards.
"Richard Kigel brings the passion of a master teacher to his biography of Phillis Wheatley, survivor of the Middle Passage and poet extraordinaire of the eighteenth-century Atlantic. He makes clear that Wheatley is a proper heroine for our history-hungry times."—Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship and The Amistad Rebellion
"...not only timely but also written out of a robust respect for this poet whose eloquence subverted the stereotype of the African. This book captures a young woman in bondage who possessed the courage and audacity to rise within that peculiar institution to speak as a seer, as an early American poet who dared to praise the imagination as the capstone of human experience. Kigel gives us a servant of language, a truth-teller who survived with an amazing grace, and whose dynamic work continues to challenge us across centuries."— Yusef Komunyakaa is an internationally acclaimed poet, Pulitzer Prize winner and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, whose poetry can be found in the collection The 100 Best African American Poems.
SHE SURVIVED the horrific Middle Passage as a child and was purchased as a slave in 1761. By the time she turned twenty Phillis Wheatley became the most famous person of African descent in the world. In a culture dominated by white supremacy, she forced those around her to acknowledge her humanity and confront the inequity of her status as a slave. Heav’nly Tidings From the Afric Muse shows how Phillis Wheatley wrote her way to freedom.
Her own words, taken from her writings, resurrect the spirit of the classic poet, who managed to launch two literary traditions at once: African-American literature and women’s literature. Phillis Wheatley has taken her rightful place among our Founding Fathers and Mothers as the true “Poet Laureate” of the American Revolution.
Phillis Wheatley was
Poet Laureate of the American Revolution
Most widely known African-American in the world in her time
First personified the American symbol “Columbia” in poetry
Knew George Washington
Arrived on a slave ship and was sold about age seven
Made a literary tour of London in 1773
Published a book of poems in London that arrived on the Dartmouth with the tea that was dumped in the “Boston Tea Party.”