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Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral

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Phillis Wheatley was the first African-American to publish a book of poetry in 1773. Born in West Africa, she was sold into slavery at age seven, and bought by a wealthy Massachusetts family who taught her to read and write. Her extraordinary literary gifts led to the publication of her "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral," and to her eventual emancipation by her owners. Although some of the poems demonstrate an apparent acceptance of the racist values of the white slave-owning classes (which viewed Africans as savage), Wheatley's considerable talents simultaneously contradicted these stereotypes. (Summary by Elizabeth Klett)
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