Click on Thumbnails Above To Enlarge
Phillis Wheatley (ca. 1753-1784), an eighteenth-century African-American woman who was a slave and a poet, was the first black American to be published. She is also credited with originating the genres of African-American poetry and African-American women’s literature. Due to the fact tha no one in America was willing to print her works, her first writings were actually published in London, England. In fact, Americans initially doubted that a slave woman could have written these poems, and so Wheatley was subjected to an interrogation by several prominent Bostonian men to determine whether she did indeed write them. They concluded that she did.
The statue is part of the Boston Women’s Memorial on Commonwealth Avenue, a series of three statues of Bostonian women by Meredith Bergmann: Wheatley, Abigail Adams, and Lucy Stone. This poem, which gives a taste of her work, is inscribed on the memorial:
” Imagination! Who can sing thy force?
Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?
Soaring through air to find the bright abode,
Th’ empyreal palace of the thund’ring God,
We on thy pinions can surpass the wind,
And leave the rolling universe behind:
From star to star the mental optics rove,
Measure the skies, and range the realms above.
There in one view we grasp the mighty whole,
Or with new worlds amaze th’ unbounded soul. “
A rare signed edition of Phillis Wheatley’s poetry from 1773
Phillis Wheatley, Boston Women’s Memorial
Address: Commonwealth Ave. between Arlington St. and Massachusetts Ave., Boston, MA
Official Website: N/A
Map & Driving Directions