Wheatley lived in the middle of the passionate controversies of the times, herself a celebrated cause and mover of events. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral Secondly, it describes the deepest Christian indictment of her race: blacks are too sinful to be saved or to be bothered with. ." Therefore, this poem has autobiographical component. Wheatley and Women's History The Wheatley home was not far from Revolutionary scenes such as the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party. She dwells on Christianity and how those against slaves should act, especially if they are Christians. Specifically, Wheatley deftly manages two biblical allusions in her last line, both to Isaiah. Following the poem (from Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773), are some observations about its treatment of the theme of enslavement: On being brought from Africa to America. assessments in his edited volume Critical Essays on Phillis Wheatley. Many of her elegies meditate on the soul in heaven, as she does briefly here in line 8. Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. A resurgence of interest in Wheatley during the 1960s and 1970s, with the rise of African American studies, led again to mixed opinions, this time among black readers. The image of night is used here primarily in a Christian sense to convey ignorance or sin, but it might also suggest skin color, as some readers feel. 36, No. Her work may be an expression of her own experiences. Wheatley admits this, and in one move, the balance of the poem seems shattered. "On Being Brought from Africa to America" is a poem written by Phillis Wheatley, published in her 1773 poetry collection "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral." Carole A. 248-57. View Critical Writing 2.docx from LIT 231 at University of North Alabama. These ideas of freedom and the natural rights of human beings were so potent that they were seized by all minorities and ethnic groups in the ensuing years and applied to their own cases. She places everyone on the same footing, in spite of any polite protestations related to racial origins. An example is the precedent of General Colin Powell, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War (a post equal to Washington's during the Revolution). In 1773 her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (which includes "On Being Brought from Africa. STYLE 1, 2002, pp. Through the argument that she and others of her race can be saved, Wheatley slyly establishes that blacks are equal to whites. It's probably Africa, because, ummm, the title is "On Being Brought from Africa to America," but it's also a country that didn't practice Christianity. Bibliography Background-Phillis Wheatley Phillis Wheatley was brought to America when she was 7 years old. Why, then, does she seem to destroy her argument and admit that the African race is black like Cain, the first murderer in the Bible? In "On Being Brought from Africa to America" Wheatley alludes twice to Isaiah to refute stereotypical readings of skin color; she interprets these passages to refer to the mutual spiritual benightedness of both races, as equal diabolically-dyed descendants of Cain. — Additional information about Wheatley's life, upbringing, and education, including resources for further research. This legitimation is implied when in the last line of the poem Wheatley tells her readers to remember that sinners "May be refin'd and join th' angelic train." Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list. "The Privileged and Impoverished Life of Phillis Wheatley" In the event that what is at stake has not been made evident enough, Wheatley becomes most explicit in the concluding lines. — More on Wheatley's work from PBS, including illustrations of her poems and a portrait of the poet herself. Illustrated Works One may wonder, then, why she would be glad to be in such a country that rejects her people. The Impact of the Early Years Wheatley's English publisher, Archibald Bell, for instance, advertised that Wheatley was "one of the greatest instances of pure, unassisted Genius, that the world ever produced." That Wheatley sometimes applied biblical language and allusions to undercut colonial assumptions about race has been documented (O'Neale), and that she had a special fondness for the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah is intimated by her verse paraphrase entitled "Isaiah LXIII. Her biblically authorized claim that the offspring of Cain "may be refin'd" to "join th' angelic train" transmutes into her self-authorized artistry, in which her desire to raise Cain about the prejudices against her race is refined into the ministerial "angelic train" (the biblical and artistic train of thought) of her poem. She proved … Though a slave when the book was published in England, she was s… 5Some view our sable race with scornful eye. Struggling with distance learning? … Wheatley's cultural awareness is even more evident in the poem "On Being Brought From Africa to America," written the year after the Harvard poem in 1768. Following fuller scholarly investigation into her complete works, however, many agree that this interpretation is oversimplified and does not do full justice to her awareness of injustice. In the South, masters frequently forbade slaves to learn to read or gather in groups to worship or convert other slaves, as literacy and Christianity were potent equalizing forces. Read Wheatley's poems and letters and compare her concerns, in an essay, to those of other African American authors of any period. Nor does Wheatley construct this group as specifically white, so that once again she resists antagonizing her white readers. This line is meaningful to an Evangelical Christian because one's soul needs to be in a state of grace, or sanctified by Christ, upon leaving the earth. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. "Their colour is a diabolic die.". If it is not, one cannot enter eternal bliss in heaven. By tapping into the common humanity that lies at the heart of Christian doctrine, Wheatley poses a gentle but powerful challenge to racism in America. Who is Phillis Wheatley’s audience in this poem? In returning the reader circularly to the beginning of the poem, this word transforms its biblical authorization into a form of exemplary self-authorization. . Her poems thus typically move dramatically in the same direction, from an extreme point of sadness (here, the darkness of the lost soul and the outcast, Cain) to the certainty of the saved joining the angelic host (regardless of the color of their skin). She also indicates, apropos her point about spiritual change, that the Christian sense of Original Sin applies equally to both races. Line 7 is one of the difficult lines in the poem. Do you think that the judgment in the 1970s by black educators that Wheatley does not teach values that are good for African American students has merit today? Wheatley's shift from first to third person in the first and second stanzas is part of this approach. Some view our sable race with scornful eye, Slaves felt that Christianity validated their equality with their masters. The inclusion of the white prejudice in the poem is very effective, for it creates two effects. https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/being-brought-africa-america, "On Being Brought from Africa to America From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. In "On Being Brought from Africa to America," Wheatley identifies herself first and foremost as a Christian, rather than as African or American, and asserts everyone's equality in God's sight. It is supposed that she was a native of Senegal or nearby, since the ship took slaves from the west coast of Africa. 172-93. Taught my benighted soul to understand Her praise of these people and what they stood for was printed in the newspapers, making her voice part of the public forum in America. This idea sums up a gratitude whites might have expected, or demanded, from a Christian slave. While she had Loyalist friends and British patrons, Wheatley sympathized with the rebels, not only because her owners were of that persuasion, but also because many slaves believed that they would gain their freedom with the cause of the Revolution. too: 'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand That there's a … Phillis lived for a time with the married Wheatley daughter in Providence, but then she married a free black man from Boston, John Peters, in 1778. , Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA). Phillis Wheatley: Complete Writings (2001), which includes "On Being Brought from Africa to America," finally gives readers a chance to form their own opinions, as they may consider this poem against the whole body of Wheatley's poems and letters. "In every human breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Lov…, Gwendolyn Brooks 1917–2000 This view sees the slave girl as completely brainwashed by the colonial captors and made to confess her inferiority in order to be accepted. When we consider how Wheatley manages these biblical allusions, particularly how she interprets them, we witness the extent to which she has become self-authorized as a result of her training and refinement. The prosperous Wheatley family of Boston had several slaves, but the poet was treated from the beginning as a companion to the family and above the other servants. Calling herself such a lost soul here indicates her understanding of what she was before being saved by her religion. With almost a third of her poetry written as elegies on the deaths of various people, Wheatley was probably influenced by the Puritan funeral elegy of colonial America, explains Gregory Rigsby in the College Language Association Journal. 'TWAS mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand And, as we have seen, Wheatley claims that this angel-like following will be composed of the progeny of Cain that has been refined, made spiritually bright and pure. 1'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land. West Africa Pagan Both black and white critics have wrestled with placing her properly in either American studies or African American studies. What is Wheatley's attitude to Christianity? Poet She was in a sinful and ignorant state, not knowing God or Christ. She did not know that she was in a sinful state. 1-13. Sources Through her rhetoric of performed ideology, Wheatley revises the implied meaning of the word Christian to include African Americans. It has been variously read as a direct address to Christians, Wheatley's declaration that both the supposed Christians in her audience and the Negroes are as "black as Cain," and her way of indicating that the terms Christians and Negroes are synonymous. Biography of Phillis Wheatley An in-depth analysis of Phillis Wheatly's "On Being Brought from African to America" for American Lit. While grateful for the religion brought to her by enslavement, the speaker bemoans the loss of freedom and argues that blacks and whites alike share the same human potential. In this, she asserts her religion as her priority in life; but, as many commentators have pointed out, it does not necessarily follow that she condones slavery, for there is evidence that she did not, in such poems as the one to Dartmouth and in the letter to Samson Occom. The effect is to place the "some" in a degraded position, one they have created for themselves through their un-Christian hypocrisy. That is, she applies the doctrine to the black race. INTRODUCTION She addresses Christians, which in her day would have included most important people in America, in government, education, and the clergy. Deonca Pierce ENG 350 American Literature I 2 September 2011 Response paper 3: “On Being Brought from Africa to America” To the literary world, Phillis Wheatley is recognized as the first black American poet (Archiving Early America, 2011). Published First Book of Poetry Judging from a full reading of her poems, it does not seem likely that she herself ever accepted such a charge against her race. In effect, she was attempting a degree of integration into Western culture not open to, and perhaps not even desired by, many African Americans. to America") was published by Archibald Bell of London. That same year, an elegy that she wrote upon the death of the Methodist preacher George Whitefield made her famous both in America and in England. Source: Mary McAleer Balkun, "Phillis Wheatley's Construction of Otherness and the Rhetoric of Performed Ideology," in African American Review, Vol. On Being Brought From Africa to America “On Being Brought From Africa to America” is a poem by Phillis Wheatley, published in her 1773 book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Wheatley's growing fame led Susanna Wheatley to advertise for a subscription to publish a whole book of her poems. In fact, all three readings operate simultaneously to support Wheatley's argument. "On Being Brought from Africa to America" finally changes from a meditation to a sermon when Wheatley addresses an audience in her exhortation in the last two lines. Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. Wheatley continues her stratagem by reminding the audience of more universal truths than those uttered by the "some." And indeed, Wheatley's use of the expression "angelic train" probably refers to more than the divinely chosen, who are biblically identified as celestial bodies, especially stars (Daniel 12:13); this biblical allusion to Isaiah may also echo a long history of poetic usage of similar language, typified in Milton's identification of the "gems of heaven" as the night's "starry train" (Paradise Lost 4:646). Have a specific question about this poem? So many in the world do not know God or Christ.