The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers

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In 1773, the slave Phillis Wheatley literally wrote her way to freedom. The first person of African descent to publish a book of poems in English, she was emancipated by her owners in recognition of her literary achievement. For a time, Wheatley was the most famous black woman in the West. But Thomas Jefferson, unlike his contemporaries Ben Franklin and George Washington, refused to acknowledge her gifts as a writer--a repudiation that eventually inspired generations of black writers to build an extraordinary body of ...

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