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Privilege does not pacify: Phillis Wheatley’s writing protests slavery despite status

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  1. Introduction.
    1. Phillis Wheatley's arival in New England.
    2. the colonists fight for sovereignty.
  2. colonists and slavery within America.
  3. Phillis Wheatley and a paradoxical New England.
    1. Susana's want for Phillis to conduct herself in the proper manner for young Christian women.
    2. The dual status of Hammon.
  4. Phillis' Christian beliefs and the way she addressed slavery in her writing.
    1. Phillis' use of religion and critics.
    2. Her relation to Christianity and the word of God.
  5. The harsh reality of slavery for Phillis.
  6. Conclusion.

Phillis Wheatley was brought to New England in 1761 to be a slave. While not every detail of Phillis' life is known, she is considered to have had a good life for someone who was legally property. The Wheatleys encouraged her education and later her career as a poet. After learning to read, Phillis used her literacy to study the Bible as well as stay abreast on current events. As a result, Phillis became a Christian and a young woman very knowledgeable in the country's fight against Great Britain for their independence. She could not help but notice the contradictory nature of Christian colonists trying to obtain freedom from Britain while holding slavery throughout the colonies. In many appeals to the king as well as pro-independence literature spread throughout the colonies, there is an abundance of liberty rhetoric. Perhaps this inconsistency in perspective is partly due to the fact that the status of African Americas in New England was unique in nature.

[...] Despite Phillis life as a published poet, she does separate herself from other slaves. The prayers and the victory is This is a strong statement because it reminds Phillis' readership of her enslaved status. Reading her work, surely sometimes it was possible to forget that she was a slave. Perhaps that could have worked in her favor in some cases, but Philis would rather align herself with others who were taken from Africa. From the modern day perspective, it is easy to write Phillis Wheatley off as someone who fully assimilated in her society and enjoyed the privileges of her life. [...]


[...] While Susanna precept and example, instructed Phillis in puritanical Christian piety and genteel decorum.?[iv] By doing this Susanna was creating a social life for Phillis as she would visit among ladies of Boston's first families, holding forth on ?female topics.? The other activities Phillis engaged in was reading or writing her ?poetic performances? before guests, or close beside Susanna reading and discussing the Bible.[v] In all of these activities, ?genteel decorum? was the key. Because Boston was such a different environment for Phillis she would never have been able to have poetry readings and thrive in elite social circles without the behavioral teachings of Susanna. [...]


[...] Phillis Wheatley was not the only person speaking out against slavery through writing. There were many others, like Thomas Paine, who challenged America to look at themselves and make a change for the better. Paine opens up ?African Slavery in America? with the following: ?That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange.?[xv] Boldly, he calls whites involved in the slave trade desperate and acknowledges that Africans were stolen from their land. [...]

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