Phillis Wheatley was the country's first published African American woman and the second published African American. She was born May 8, 1753, in West Africa and sold into slavery at the age of seven. She was purchased by John Wheatley of Boston, and was educated and encouraged in her poetry by this progressive family. Her first book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was published in London in 1773. Following John Wheatley’s death, she was freed from slavery in 1778 and died in 1784.
The J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections contains the first edition of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, numerous later publications of Wheatley’s work and biography, as well as The Works of Alexander Pope and Pope’s translation of The Odyssey, both from Wheatley’s personal library and bearing her inscription.