Celebrating the first published Black poet in America

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Weathered page of a book of poetry by Phillis Wheatly
An excerpt of Phillis Wheatley's poetry, courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

James Baldwin, an American writer and Civil Rights activist, once said, "People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them."

Here at Radio Boston, we're fascinated by history, and want to dive deeper into it. And sometimes, the best way to understand our history is to understand the people who walked through it and left their mark.

Today, we explore the life and poetry of Phillis Wheatley.

Abducted from her home in the Senegal region of West Africa before the Revolutionary War, she was brought to Massachusetts and sold into slavery at age seven or eight. Later, she went on to be the first Black poet to have a book of poetry published in America. This month actually marks 250 years since the first announcement about her work being published in Boston.

Peter Drummey, chief historian at the Massachusetts Historical Society, joined us to take a look at her life, and to share about the upcoming exhibit of Wheatley's work starting later this spring at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

This segment aired on February 9, 2022.

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Tiziana Dearing Host, Radio Boston
Tiziana Dearing is the host of Radio Boston.


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Sarah Leeson Freelance Producer
Sarah Leeson was a freelance producer for WBUR's Radio Boston.



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