The enslavement of Africans in the American colonies grew steadily from the early seventeenth century until by 1860 there were about four million slaves in the United States. While Wheatley included some traditional elements of the elegy, or praise for the dead, in "On Being Brought from Africa to America," she primarily combines sermon and meditation techniques in the poem. An in-depth analysis of Phillis Wheatly's "On Being Brought from African to America" for American Lit. She also indicates, apropos her point about spiritual change, that the Christian sense of Original Sin applies equally to both races. On Being Brought from Africa to America by Phillis Wheatley: Summary and Analysis Phillis Wheatley was brought to America from Africa at the age of eight. 189, 193. At a Glance… For additional information on Clif…, Harlem At The Present Moment Synonym, Given this challenge, Wheatley managed, Erkkila points out, to "merge" the vocabularies of various strands of her experience—from the biblical and Protestant Evangelical to the revolutionary political ideas of the day—consequently creating "a visionary poetics that imagines the deliverance of her people" in the total change that was happening in the world. Reading Wheatley not just as an African American author but as a transatlantic black author, like Ignatius Sancho and Olaudah Equiano, the critics demonstrate that early African writers who wrote in English represent "a diasporic model of racial identity" moving between the cultures of Africa, Europe, and the Americas. 1-8." Wheatley's shift from first to third person in the first and second stanzas is part of this approach. A second biblical allusion occurs in the word train. Meadows Museum Past Exhibitions, On this note, the speaker segues into the second stanza, having laid out her ("Christian") position and established the source of her rhetorical authority. eNotes critical analyses help you gain a deeper understanding of On Being Brought from Africa … on being brought from africa to america intended audience Andersen holds a PhD in literature and teaches literature and writing. 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. As such, though she inherited the Puritan sense of original sin and resignation in death, she focuses on the element of comfort for the bereaved. Unlike Wheatley, her success continues to increase, and she is one of the richest people in America. This is why she can never love tyranny. 103-104. This comparison would seem to reinforce the stereotype of evil that she seems anxious to erase. 24, 27-31, 33, 36, 42-43, 47. Therein, she implores him to right America's wrongs and be a just administrator. She did light housework because of her frailty and often visited and conversed in the social circles of Boston, the pride of her masters. Beaumont And Fletcher Philaster, The African slave who would be named Phillis Wheatley and who would gain fame as a Boston poet during the American Revolution arrived in America on a slave ship on July 11, 1761. She wrote and published verses to George Washington, the general of the Revolutionary army, saying that he was sure to win with virtue on his side. The impact of the racial problems in Revolutionary America on Wheatley's reputation should not be underrated. Her rhetoric has the effect of merging the female with the male, the white with the black, the Christian with the Pagan. ´On being brought from Africa to America´ Dead and legacy -married with John Peters on 1778 - Her first two kids died - died 5 december 1784 Impact -She cares about change -Made people think about race issues . The darker races are looked down upon. 233, 237. Phillis Wheatley read quite a lot of classical literature, mostly in translation (such as Pope's translations of Homer), but she also read some Latin herself. Her published book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773), might have propelled her to greater prominence, but the Revolutionary War interrupted her momentum, and Wheatley, set free by her master, suddenly had to support herself. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html. Wheatley's growing fame led Susanna Wheatley to advertise for a subscription to publish a whole book of her poems. These documents are often anthologized along with the Declaration of Independence as proof, as Wheatley herself said to the Native American preacher Samson Occom, that freedom is an innate right. This failed due to doubt that a slave could write poetry. Wheatley's verse generally reveals this conscious concern with poetic grace, particularly in terms of certain eighteenth-century models (Davis; Scruggs). Gates documents the history of the critique of her poetry, noting that African Americans in the nineteenth century, following the trends of Frederick Douglass and the numerous slave narratives, created a different trajectory for black literature, separate from the white tradition that Wheatley emulated; even before the twentieth century, then, she was being scorned by other black writers for not mirroring black experience in her poems. 172-93. 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. Wheatley Question 1: Who is Wheatley’s audience in "On Being Brought from Africa to America? 27, No. The poem describes Wheatley's experience as a young girl who was enslaved and brought to the American colonies in 1761. In effect, the reader is invited to return to the start of the poem and judge whether, on the basis of the work itself, the poet has proven her point about the equality of the two races in the matter of cultural well as spiritual refinement. As her poem indicates, with the help of God, she has overcome, and she exhorts others that they may do the same. She notes that the black skin color is thought to represent a connection to the devil. The final and highly ironic demonstration of otherness, of course, would be one's failure to understand the very poem that enacts this strategy. Specifically, Wheatley deftly manages two biblical allusions in her last line, both to Isaiah. She is both in America and actively seeking redemption because God himself has willed it. Thus, John Wheatley collected a council of prominent and learned men from Boston to testify to Phillis Wheatley's authenticity. That this self-validating woman was a black slave makes this confiscation of ministerial role even more singular. Phillis Wheatley - 1753-1784 '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. She thus makes clear that she has praised God rather than the people or country of America for her good fortune. 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. While Wheatley's poetry gave fuel to abolitionists who argued that blacks were rational and human and therefore ought not be treated as beasts, Thomas Jefferson found Wheatley's poems imitative and beneath notice. This view sees the slave girl as completely brainwashed by the colonial captors and made to confess her inferiority in order to be accepted. Coccus Pronunciation In English, A sensation in her own day, Wheatley was all but forgotten until scrutinized under the lens of African American studies in the twentieth century. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. In A Mixed Race: Ethnicity in Early America, Betsy Erkkila explores Wheatley's "double voice" in "On Being Brought from Africa to America." This strategy is also evident in her use of the word benighted to describe the state of her soul (2). Here she mentions nothing about having been free in Africa while now being enslaved in America. The speaker's declared salvation and the righteous anger that seems barely contained in her "reprimand" in the penultimate line are reminiscent of the rhetoric of revivalist preachers. She adds that in case he wonders why she loves freedom, it is because she was kidnapped from her native Africa and thinks of the suffering of her parents. The difficulties she may have encountered in America are nothing to her, compared to possibly having remained unsaved. On the other hand, Gilbert Imlay, a writer and diplomat, disagreed with Jefferson, holding Wheatley's genius to be superior to Jefferson's. MetroSportsBook.com provides you a quick and safe way to enjoy every moment betting on major sporting events in the world, including the best soccer leagues, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, UFC and more. INTRODUCTION On the other hand, by bringing up Cain, she confronts the popular European idea that the black race sprang from Cain, who murdered his brother Abel and was punished by having a mark put on him as an outcast. Nor does Wheatley construct this group as specifically white, so that once again she resists antagonizing her white readers. Although most of her religious themes are conventional exhortations against sin and for accepting salvation, there is a refined and beautiful inspiration to her verse that was popular with her audience. Nevertheless, that an eighteenth-century woman (who was not a Quaker) should take on this traditionally male role is one surprise of Wheatley's poem. https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/being-brought-africa-america, "On Being Brought from Africa to America Such couplets were usually closed and full sentences, with parallel structure for both halves. Washington was pleased and replied to her. As did "To the University of Cambridge," this poem begins with the sentiment that the speaker's removal from Africa was an act of "mercy," but in this context it becomes Wheatley's version of the "fortunate fall"; the speaker's removal to the colonies, despite the circumstances, is perceived as a blessing. Shuffelton also surmises why Native American cultural production was prized while black cultural objects were not. She notes that the poem is "split between Africa and America, embodying the poet's own split consciousness as African American." No one is excluded from the Savior's tender mercy—not the worst people whites can think of—not Cain, not blacks. Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers, Basic Civitas Books, 2003, pp. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., claims in The Trials of Phillis Wheatley that Boston contained about a thousand African Americans out of a population of 15,520. This free poetry study guide will help you understand what you're reading. Today: African Americans are educated and hold political office, even becoming serious contenders for the office of president of the United States. Lioness Instagram, Perhaps her sense of self in this instance demonstrates the degree to which she took to heart Enlightenment theories concerning personal liberty as an innate human right; these theories were especially linked to the abolitionist arguments advanced by the New England clergy with whom she had contact (Levernier, "Phillis"). It is easy to see the calming influence she must have had on the people who sought her out for her soothing thoughts on the deaths of children, wives, ministers, and public figures, praising their virtues and their happy state in heaven. . Carole A. Providing a comprehensive and inspiring perspective in The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., remarks on the irony that "Wheatley, having been pain-stakingly authenticated in her own time, now stands as a symbol of falsity, artificiality, of spiritless and rote convention." Wheatley was hailed as a genius, celebrated in Europe and America just as the American Revolutionbroke out in the colonies. Further, because the membership of the "some" is not specified (aside from their common attitude), the audience is not automatically classified as belonging with them. Retrieved January 12, 2021 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/being-brought-africa-america. Nevertheless, in her association of spiritual and aesthetic refinement, she also participates in an extensive tradition of religious poets, like George Herbert and Edward Taylor, who fantasized about the correspondence between their spiritual reconstruction and the aesthetic grace of their poetry. 215-33. She was planning a second volume of poems, dedicated to Benjamin Franklin, when the Revolutionary War broke out. Wheatley was a member of the Old South Congregational Church of Boston. In context, it seems she felt that slavery was immoral and that God would deliver her race in time. Phillis Wheatley: Poems study guide contains a biography of Phillis Wheatley, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. The opening thought is thus easily accepted by a white or possibly hostile audience: that she is glad she came to America to find true religion. She was seven or eight years old, did not speak English, and was wrapped in a dirty carpet. ———, ed., Critical Essays on Phillis Wheatley, G. K. Hall, 1982, pp. Once again, Wheatley co-opts the rhetoric of the other. The first four lines of the poem could be interpreted as a justification for enslaving Africans, or as a condoning of such a practice, since the enslaved would at least then have a chance at true religion. No one is excluded from the Savior's tender mercy—not the worst people whites can think of—not Cain, not blacks. The later poem exhibits an even greater level of complexity and authorial control, with Wheatley manipulating her audience by even more covert means. CRITICISM A detailed summary and explanation of Lines 1-4 in On Being Brought from Africa to America by Phillis Wheatley. Robinson, William H., Phillis Wheatley and Her Writings, Garland, 1984, pp. In this verse, however, Wheatley has adeptly managed biblical allusions to do more than serve as authorizations for her writing; as finally managed in her poem, these allusions also become sites where this license is transformed into an artistry that in effect becomes exemplarily self-authorized. In returning the reader circularly to the beginning of the poem, this word transforms its biblical authorization into a form of exemplary self-authorization. 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). In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Wheatley explains her humble origins in "On Being Brought from Africa to America" and then promptly turns around to exhort her audience to accept African equality in the realm of spiritual matters, and by implication, in intellectual matters (the poem being in the form of neoclassical couplets). CRITICAL OVERVIEW Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., "Phillis Wheatley and the Nature of the Negro," in Critical Essays on Phillis Wheatley, edited by William H. Robinson, G. K. Hall, 1982, pp. Western notions of race were still evolving. 12 Jan. 2021 . Later generations of slaves were born into captivity. 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. 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 fact, the Wheatleys introduced Phillis to their circle of Evangelical antislavery friends. What were their beliefs about slavery? © 2019 Encyclopedia.com | All rights reserved. Speaking of one of his visions, the prophet observes, "I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple" (Isaiah 6:1). Bone Marrow Donation Gone Wrong, According to Dr. Dana Williams at Howard University, interviewed on the clip from "Great American Authors," one way to read "On Being Brought from Africa to America" is to read Wheatley as being Thus, John Wheatley collected a council of prominent and learned men from Boston to testify to Phillis Wheatley's authenticity. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., claims in The Trials of Phillis Wheatley that Boston contained about a thousand African Americans out of a population of 15,520. She wants to inform her readers of the opposite fact—and yet the wording of her confession of faith became proof to later readers that she had sold out, like an Uncle Tom, to her captors' religious propaganda. Rather than a direct appeal to a specific group, one with which the audience is asked to identify, this short poem is a meditation on being black and Christian in colonial America. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers (2003), contends that Wheatley's reputation as a whitewashed black poet rests almost entirely on interpretations of "On Being Brought from Africa to America," which he calls "the most reviled poem in African-American literature." 1-8" (Mason 75-76). In line 1 of "On Being Brought from Africa to America," as she does throughout her poems and letters, Wheatley praises the mercy of God for singling her out for redemption. She now offers readers an opportunity to participate in their own salvation: The speaker, carefully aligning herself with those readers who will understand the subtlety of her allusions and references, creates a space wherein she and they are joined against a common antagonist: the "some" who "view our sable race with scornful eye" (5). Although her poems typically address Christianity and avoid issues of race, "On Being Brought from Africa to America" is a short, but powerful, poem about slavery. However, in the speaker's case, the reason for this failure was a simple lack of awareness. Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. While ostensibly about the fate of those black Christians who see the light and are saved, the final line in "On Being Brought From Africa to America" is also a reminder to the members of her audience about their own fate should they choose unwisely. 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