Literature and History: The Development of American Culture to 1865

On Being Brought from Africa to America

Phillis Wheatley was one of the slave who was brought from Africa to America. Not like other slaves at that time, she was the fortunate one to meet Susannah Wheatley who was sympathetic about Phillis Wheatley. She provided education to Phillis, which was quite uncommon among the white women at that period. She was talented and smart in learning and in a short time she was able to read Latin writers. The education she received opened her eyes to Christianity and she became a great follower of God. Her youth led her path to be a writer who launched two traditions of ‘the black American literary’ and ‘the black woman’s literary’ tradition. Her poems were mostly about Religious and Moral subject of 18th century. She showed how her faith in Lord was strong and was eager for the freedom of Afican slaves.

From her poetry ‘ On Being Brought from Africa to America,’ even it was a short poetry that she wrote, it was enough to show the situation and the prejudice of white people toward the black people. At the first lnes of poem, she wrote that it was God’s mercy that she was brought from her home country to America. Even if she was brought as a slave, she was thanking God for letting her study about God and have faith in him. The situation that she was placed was not that positive since many white people were judging black people and viewed their ‘sable race with scornful eye.’They considered that the skin color of black people were ‘diabolic dye’.However, she quoted that “Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, May be refined, and join the angelic train” It clearly showed her Christian perspective that human could not judge the value of other human being based on their skin tone since God refined them to and invited them to his house of heaven.


4 responses

  1. chessicarose

    Phillis Wheatley’s poem On Being Brought from Africa to America really inspired me. It was short but it still managed to clearly expain Wheatly’s faith in God and her own peoples.When she states “Remember Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, May be refined, and join the angelic train” her words help this faith leap off of the page and into the readers own heart. Wheatley’s story has captivated me, and given me a significant literary figure to admire. Wheatly much like Equiano had to endure the hardships of slavery. However, they were two very sucssesful African American writers. They began a tradition of writing that opened a new audience of compassionate slave holders and in later years, an audeince of literate African American’s.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm

  2. jacquibonaventure

    While we were discussing her in class we started to build off the idea that it was a bit scary that Phillis Wheatley was thanking the europeans for enslaving her and putting her through such traumatic experiences because at the end of it all she found a sympathetic family who helped her find god. Ultimately though, i think she was building off the idea that sometimes good things come out of the bad and i think the beginning of her poem was her way of coping to find a bright side in a terrible thing that happened in her life that she cannot change. The end of her poem is such a great ending to her altogether beautiful poem. It has,in my opinion, so many hidden messages in it. For one, she is using her education to write beautiful words. She uses her knowledge of christianity and of how to write to state her message clear. Though she is incredibly poetic, i think she deserves great recognition in that the europeans who read this obviously missed her incredibly subtle stab at them or that she luckily wasn’t recognized as any kind of influence. Clearly at the end she is saying WITH THEIR RELIGION that they are wrong for putting her through what she went through and that they will get what they deserve for the sins that they have committed. I think her ending lines tell the europeans, “practice what you preach.” Once again, she did a great job of being subtle to call them out as hypocrites and though she portrayed she was thankful for her hardships, she ultimately took a stab at her captors in the only way she knew how.

    November 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm

  3. cynthiaqiu

    I agree, she is an amazing poet, with just a few lines, she painted a picture worth many, many words. Many slaves of her time did have the opportunity that she had, to go to school and let alone have her work published. I believe she is a woman who uses her education to her advantage, her last lines (agreeing with jacquibonaventure) subtly speak along how in the end, both the Whites and other races will be in heaven together because of religion. They will both be upon the “angelic train.” She continues to look to the future with positive thoughts as most of her words are positive words even though she may be portraying is not — the relationship between the Whites and others.

    I really admire her, if I had the opportunity to step into her shoes, I would not be able to do as she did. She has a clear mindset and really gives a voice to her and those around her that could not as Equiano did.

    November 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm

  4. A woman that wrote such beautiful poetry was almost overlooked simply due to her occupation. At that time, it was also rare to have an education like Wheatley did. On Being Brought from Africa to America, her poem may be short, but has so much meaning behind in. In class we had discussed how it sounded like she was thanking the Lord as if being enslaved in America is any better then being back in Africa. Yet, in her first line she mentions Africa being her “pagan land”. Guess she wasn’t happy with being in Africa, but I don’t understand the tone of what seems to be joy of living in America. I think her joy comes more from discovering and believing in God. And investing her interest in the Bible and the Lord. I also love how in the end of her poem, she addresses her audience by letting them know that no matter what color you may be, we are all the same…human. Her poem as a whole, seems uplifting, yet you can almost hear that she’s hiding some anger. I think her belief in the Lord made her able to put a positive spin on the outlook of life for her

    November 29, 2011 at 7:33 pm

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