Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage



With Poems On Various Subjects, Religious And Moral , Phillis Wheatley Became The First English Speaking Person Of African Descent To Publish A Book And Only The Second Woman Of Any Race Or Background To Do So In America Written In Boston While She Was Just A Teenager, And When She Was Still A Slave, Wheatley S Work Was An International Sensation In Phillis Wheatley, Vincent Carretta Offers The First Full Length Biography Of A Figure Whose Origins And Later Life Have Remained Shadowy Despite Her Iconic StatusA Scholar With Extensive Knowledge Of Transatlantic Literature And History, Carretta Uncovers New Details About Wheatley S Origins, Her Upbringing, And How She Gained Freedom Carretta Solves The Mystery Of John Peters, Correcting The Record Of When He And Wheatley Married And Revealing What Became Of Him After Her Death Assessing Wheatley S Entire Body Of Work, Carretta Discusses The Likely Role She Played In The Production, Market Ing, And Distribution Of Her Writing Wheatley Developed A Remarkable Transatlantic Network That Transcended Racial, Class, Political, Religious, And Geographical Boundaries Carretta Reconstructs That Network And Sheds New Light On Her Religious And Political Identities In The Course Of His Research He Discovered The Earliest Poem Attributable To Wheatley And Has Included It And Other Unpublished Poems In The BiographyCarretta Relocates Wheatley From The Margins To The Center Of Her Eighteenth Century Transatlantic World, Revealing The Fascinating Life Of A Woman Who Rose From The Indignity Of Enslavement To Earn Wide Recognition, Only To Die In Obscurity A Few Years LaterPhillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage

Vincent Carretta is emertius professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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  • Hardcover
  • 304 pages
  • Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage
  • Vincent Carretta
  • English
  • 26 November 2019
  • 0820333387

10 thoughts on “Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage

  1. says:

    I highly recommend this book which chronicals the life of a slave girl and her relationship with her Boston owners The book tells us of her genius and the fame she aquires in England andand her marriage to free black man John Peters Enjoy and Be Blessed.

  2. says:

    I am fascinated and impressed with Wheatley joyful Christian woman, gifted poet, and freed slave This is the definitive biography on her, as of 2013 If you want to know Wheatley, this biography published by the University of Georgia press does not have the expected weight of an academic tome With scant details of her life available, Carretta is to be applauded for taking on the task of portraying, in his words, this Genius in Bondage Critics challenge both her poetic genius and her bon I am fascinated and impressed with Wheatley joyful Christian woman, gifted poet, and freed slave This is the definitive biography on her, as of 2013 If you want to know Wheatley, this biography published by the University of Georgia press does not have the expected weight of an academic tome With scant details of her life available, Carretta is to be applauded for taking on the task of portraying, in his words, this Genius in Bondage Critics challenge both her poetic genius and her bondage The book engages regularly with original documents, sources, and poetry Carretta presents many surprising historical details First, Wheatley s capture and bondage into slavery is the providential means of her liberty and freedom She writes On being brought from Africa to America Twas mercy brought me from my pagan land,Taught my benighted soul to understandThat there s a God, and there s a Savior too Once I redemption neither sought nor new.Some view our sable race with scornful eye, Their color is a diabolical dye Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,May be refin d, and join th angelic train ll 1 8 The family that purchased Phillis loved her They lived out the gospel in front of and with Phillis It was wrong for human beings to be bought and sold It was wrong for Scripture to be used to oppress Africans However, I amthan reluctant to cast diachronic stones at John Susanna Wheatley If I were a well to do white Christian man living in the 1700s, am I certain I would not have done the same thing Purchased a slave and cared for her, in most ways, as though she were a family member Loving her, educating her, guiding her, granting her free person status Carretta could have labored this pointHe follows the misplaced keep your distance masquerding as objectivity expectations of contemporary American historiography The reality is that Wheatley s perspective on her own life was one of gratitude to God and His providential grace You get this from Carretta s portrayal, but his vantage point is one of detachment The paradoxes of Wheatley s life are extreme as a slave she experienced freedom as a free woman she experienced bondage I don t want the story of her life to read this way, but it does Human beings and how we relate to one another are complex and not fair.I am thankful for Carretta s attention to detail One of my favorite parts of the book was the correspondence between Phillis and George Washington Carretta opened my eyes to the cultural na vet of Washington s glamorous and impeccable personae His own slaves abandoned Mt Vernon and fought for the British Details like this make his book worth reading Another point of interest for Greek grammarians like myself is that Granville Sharp capably appears on these pages It was great to see him in a light other than that of a generator of grammatical rules.Susanna Wheatley, friend and owner of Phillis, died in 1774 Grieving the death of her friend, Phillis writes to Obour Tanner Carretta is to be thanked for his detailed research and presentation of documents such as this letter I have lately met with the great trial in the death of my mistress let us imagine the loss of a Parent, Sister or Brother the tenderness of all these were united in her I was a poor little outcast and a stranger when she took me in not only into her house but I presently became a sharer in her most tender affections I was treated by herlike her child than her servant no opportunity was left unimproved, of giving me the best of advice, but in terms how tender How engaging This I hope ever to keep in remembrance Her exemplary life was a greater monitor than all her precepts and instruction, thus we may observe of how much greater force example is than instruction To alleviate our sorrows we had the satisfaction to see her depart in inexpressible raptures, earnest longings and impatient thirstings for the upper Courts of the Lord Do, my dear friend, remember me and this family in your Closet, that this afflicting dispensation maybe sanctified to us You can read Wheatley s poetry for free Go to Google books, Memoir and poems of Phillis Wheatley, a native African and a slave 1834 Small Group Study Guide, Preface, Chapter 1What do you make of one of Wheatley s letters selling for 253,000 in 2005 ix Of the millions of enslaved Africans taken to the British colonies and their descendants by the end of the 18th century, Phillis Wheatley was one of fewer than twenty whose words found their way directly into print during their lifetimes 4 How important is the availability of education to the poor oppressed What responsibility does the church or individual Christians have to educate the poor and needy today How might this be accomplished What motivated John Susanna Wheatley to educate and care for Phillis as they did What do we learn about the Wheatley children John, Susanna, and Sarah 14 What affinity does Carretta see between the purchase and care of Phillis Wheatley and Susanna Wheatley Was the purchase of Phillis motivated by 1 a desire for status, 2 an adoptive surrogate spirit, 3 to assist with household duties, 4 the gospel 5 a mixture of the preceding, or 6 something else Does Carretta lead the reader in a specific direction in reference to the preceding question If you were corresponding with Phillis what counsel would you give her regarding her status as property of John Wheatley In other words, assuming she is loved and cared for as one made in the imago Dei, would you counsel her to seek her freedom Do you think it is possible that you could have given Phillis to your wife as a gift had you lived in Boston in the 1700s page 1 Is it possible that the Wheatleys loved and honored Phillis and Christ in their purchase and care of Phillis Why or why not Defenders of slavery cited Leviticus 25 45 46 to justify their enslavement of outsiders page 1 Read this passage and list biblical texts which might be used to negate the institution of slavery.Had you lived in Boston in the 1700s would you have been one of those calling for abolition of slavery Or, would you have perhaps owned a slave and treated him her as closely as possible as a family member CHAPTER 2What is the significance of Wheatley arriving in Boston during the transatlantic Great Awakening 25 Evangelical Christianity offered the poor a way to try to make sense of their present misery 29 What Scripture texts support this statement What is the church s role regarding those in misery Phillis was baptized 18 August 1771 Carretta notes that congregationalists generally baptized believers at the age of eighteen Why might have this practice fallen away What do you think of baptizing whenever contemporary evangelical baptistic practice as compared to baptizing at eighteen 1700s evangelical baptistic practice Carefully read A conversation between a New York gentleman and Phillis on pp 35 36 What stands out to you most in this catechism authored by Phillis The church in America today has little power and influence on our culture This was not so in the 1700s Public theatrical performances were banned in Boston during Phillis Wheatley s lifetime 42 If the church had the authority to influence legislation today, what one law would you desire to be passed How do you think the church s view on recreation and entertainment has changed so dramatically since Colonial days Do you think banning the theater promoted godliness in individuals or served the public good What did you most enjoy in chapter 2 Any places in chapter two where you strongly agreed or disagreed with Carretta s analysis Small Group Study Guide, Chapter 31 According to Carretta, upon what does Wheatley base her arguments in An Address to the Atheist 55 2 To an orthodox Trinitarian Calvinist, a deist was little better than an atheist, and orthodox Christians often equated them during the period 56 Is the same true today In what way 3 What does Carretta say that Phillis was saying to her readers by referring to herself as an Ethiopian 57 Did Moses have a black African wife 4 Did God curse the descendants of Ham with black skin and slavery, as proposed by some defenders of slavery 5 What do you think about Ebenezer Richardson 71 6 Any comments about George Whitefield that are prompted by chapter 3 7 In The Wordless Book, which uses colored pages to present the gospel, black is used to talk about sin Are there verses in the Bible to support this I wonder how much of our theology is based on human traditions, songs, and sayings that are not all that biblical Chapter 71 Who was John Peters 2 What do you make of the author s statement that Wheatley and Peters started living together prior to their marriage 173 3 What was the difference between feme sole and femme covert 174 4 What was the result of the scarcity of money in the colonies during the 18th century 177 5 Were John and Phillis Peters initially and ultimately financially prosperous 178, 182 3, 186, 191 94 6 Did Phillis have children support your answer 7 Was John Wesley a supporter of slavery, as was Whitefield 188 8 Read the opening and closing stanzas to the poem on page 189 that was published five months prior to Phillis s death What strikes you most in these lines

  3. says:

    While detail oriented, not in a way that denies a holistic view In fact the details are reinforced by and reinforce the wide lens Carretta uses to try to grasp at Wheatley Very engaging because of this society in the individual approach Carretta envisions her as secretly ironic and heading towards an abolitionist mindset, which, while I think can be read into her from what Carretta provides, isn t really thoroughly arguedthan stated imo.On a content level it s a fascinating and tragic s While detail oriented, not in a way that denies a holistic view In fact the details are reinforced by and reinforce the wide lens Carretta uses to try to grasp at Wheatley Very engaging because of this society in the individual approach Carretta envisions her as secretly ironic and heading towards an abolitionist mindset, which, while I think can be read into her from what Carretta provides, isn t really thoroughly arguedthan stated imo.On a content level it s a fascinating and tragic story madetragic by the dearth of documentation for such a vital African American figure, and on a meta level an inspiring detective story about reviving the legacy of a figure who d become both an abolitionist symbol for the possibilities of a people when not enslaved and later a Black Power symbol for the colonization of the black mind by white supremacy My only want would be an extra chapter, as opposed to the 5 page afterward, of how her legacy shaped future work Nonetheless, a thorough book definitely worth the read if you re interested in American poetry

  4. says:

    Accessible for the lay reader who doesn t know a lot about Wheatley Makes a good case for calling her the Poet Laureate of the American Revolution, for her talent, her recognition by people in her own time, and of course, her status as an enslaved American, which helps focus on the contradictions inherent in the project of freedom in America since the revolution.

  5. says:

    This book was highly recommended but although wonderfully researched, I failed to really grasp the story of Wheatley The book veered off in so many areas that it was difficult to follow.

  6. says:

    3.5 starsI was recently tasked with creating a short presentation on the life of significance of Phillis Wheatley, and it didn t take too long to realize that there is very little modern day scholars can say with absolute certainty about her life and work, let alone her private attitudes and opinions This book, however, is one of the clearest and most thoroughly researched works I ve come across that deal with Wheatley s life and work in fact, it occasionally veers on the point of being overl 3.5 starsI was recently tasked with creating a short presentation on the life of significance of Phillis Wheatley, and it didn t take too long to realize that there is very little modern day scholars can say with absolute certainty about her life and work, let alone her private attitudes and opinions This book, however, is one of the clearest and most thoroughly researched works I ve come across that deal with Wheatley s life and work in fact, it occasionally veers on the point of being overly thorough Despite the long passages about important persons of the time and place which seem only marginally relevant, I was largely quite pleased with the depth to which this book was researched I felt I had athorough understanding of Wheatley s life and situation once I finished this, and although I wish the author had gone intodepth about Phillis s relations towards the Wheatley household, I can t fault any decisions to stick to only what can be verified or surmised from historical fact I would definitely recommend this to those interested in Bostonian revolutionary era society and early African American artists and authors

  7. says:

    Excellent comprehensive biography of the first published English speaking published black poet Contrary to some assumptions, Wheatley was subtly subversive of racist and sexist boundaries of the 18th century while becoming a highly educated upper middle class free woman Her story is fascinating and her sense of self both conflicted and confident She does not get the credit she deserves for expanding the strict lines of literature and art in America She used Christianity and conventional, hig Excellent comprehensive biography of the first published English speaking published black poet Contrary to some assumptions, Wheatley was subtly subversive of racist and sexist boundaries of the 18th century while becoming a highly educated upper middle class free woman Her story is fascinating and her sense of self both conflicted and confident She does not get the credit she deserves for expanding the strict lines of literature and art in America She used Christianity and conventional, highly structured poetry to define herself and fight conceptions of black inferiority and, upon buying her freedom after a promotional tour in England, the slave system in the new world Academic but enlightened, and not over written or meant to transform her into a symbol Highly well researched and annotated Recommend

  8. says:

    This book provides the most clear picture to date of Phillis Wheatley s professional and personal life Sourcing a number of primary documents, such as letters and contemporaneous newspaper accounts, Carretta provides a long overdue chronicle of a tragically incomplete life and career.For too long, Wheatley s true genius has been shamefully overlooked by too many other historians Her poetic contributions and apparent genius provided the creative writing foundation from which so many other Ame This book provides the most clear picture to date of Phillis Wheatley s professional and personal life Sourcing a number of primary documents, such as letters and contemporaneous newspaper accounts, Carretta provides a long overdue chronicle of a tragically incomplete life and career.For too long, Wheatley s true genius has been shamefully overlooked by too many other historians Her poetic contributions and apparent genius provided the creative writing foundation from which so many other Americans are benefiting She isthan a poetic genius, she is a national treasure.Delightfully upbeat and written with a storyteller s fluidity, this book is a must read for all students of history and fans of Wheatley cb

  9. says:

    Great book that includes a lot of exhaustive research about Phillis Wheatley Carretta really frames the book as, and gives evidence to, Phillis being an intelligent person and shrewd negotiator, rather than just a talented poet who was kept down by her station in life There are many primary sources used letters, diary entries that really give you a better sense of who Phillis was outside of her poetry.

  10. says:

    This is an academic biography extremely well researched about a remarkable person, but it is a bit lacking in flair I d recommend Gates s short book on Wheatley The Trials of Phillis Wheatley instead, even if it s not as fact oriented.

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