Library of Congress

Teachers

The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Pages from Her Story
Library of Congress Her Story Home Additional Resources Features & Activities
Time Line 1763-1783 Time Line 1783-1815 Time Line 1815-1860 Time Line 1861-1877 Time Line 1876-1900 Time Line 1900-1929 Time Line 1929-1945 Time Line 1945-1968
A Letter from Phillis Wheatley, 1774
The American Revolution, 1763-1783
The American Revolution
BACKGROUND OF LETTER

Phillis Wheatley was born in Africa and brought to Boston on a slave ship in 1761. She was only 7 or 8 years old at the time and was purchased by John Wheatley. Phillis was quick to learn the English language and, without attending school, she learned how to read and write. She became interested in poetry and began to compose her own verses. In 1773, at age 19, a volume of her poems was published in London. The Wheatley family treated her more like a family member than a slave, and in this 1774 letter she describes her feelings at the death of her mistress, Mrs. Wheatley.
Related items >
Tear Image
Highlights

March 21, 1774

Dear Obour,

I recd. your obliging Letter, enclosed in your... Pastor's & handed me by his Son. I have lately met with a 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 a stranger when she took me in, not only into her house but I presently became, and honor in her most tender affections, I was treated by her more like her child than her servant, no opportunity was left union proud, of giving me the best of advice, but in terms how tender? how engaging! this I hope ever to keep in remembrance. Her example by life was a greater monitor than all her precepts and Instruction thus we may observe of how much greater force example is than Instruction.....

I am very affectionately your Friend.
Philles Wheatley

View the actual handwrtten letter and read the rest of the text.