Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Thursday, February 10, 2011

Phyllis Wheatley -- 1753 – December 5, 1784

February is Black History month.  

Phyllis Wheatley was America's first African-American poet.  A bronze sculpture, by Meredith Bergmann, celebrating Ms. Wheatley is on the mall on Commonwealth Ave., Boston, Mass.

Boston Women's Memorial: Phillis Wheatley
Commonwealth Avenue and Fairfield Street, Boston, MA

bronze and granite, 2003
bronze: 59” x 50” x 32”

Wheatley, a slave in colonial Boston, was our first published African-American poet. Her pose is derived from the only extant image of her. She represents youth and Imagination.

On Being Brought from Africa to America

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

I read this poem as supremely sarcastic in the poet's intent.  "Twas mercy brought me from my "Pagan land..."  Really?  Mercy took her away from her "Pagan" land?  And taught her "benighted soul?"  Benighted by the white masters?   The most heartbreaking lines are the last 3:  "Their colour is a diabolic die."/Remember, Christians, Negro's,  black as Cain,/May be refine'd, and join th' angelic train."


Kevin Robbins said...

Love Ms. Wheatley's sense of humor and sarcasm in the poem. Following the link to wiki, I see she died after her husband was imprisoned for debt. Lucky we don't have debtor's prisons anymore.

Shaw Kenawe said...

I'm not sure the GOP's Tea Party wing won't demand we reinstate their use right after the GOP puts women and their doctors in prison for a legal medical procedure.

E. Dickinson said...

Compare and contrast with the "poetry" of S.Palin:

"I want to help clean--
up the state
that is so sorry
today of journalism--
and I have--
a communications

tnlib said...

Nice tribute to a wonderful woman. No doubt VA and Texas will write her out of the history books.

dmarks said...

I'm working on a post about Detroit's Robocop statue. Seriously, there are better people in Detroit's history to honor than Robocop, as amusing as the idea may be. This post of yours gives fuel for thought.

Looks like they missed the boat, or bus as it were, on the idea of a Rosa Parks statue.