Born in the Senegal/Gambia region of West Africa, Phyllis Wheatley was probably about seven years old when she was capture by slavers. Because she was small and thought to be ill, she was sold to a tailor and his family.
The Wheatley family of Boston taught their young slave how to read and write, once they saw she had a desire to learn. She began writing poetry, which they encouraged.
Her first book of poetry was published in 1773, when she and one of her slave owners went to London to promote her work. She was introduced to prominent people, one of which took an interest in her work and helped her publish it. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral brought fame to her in the UK and the USA.
The Wheatley’s emancipated Phyllis after her book was published. She later married John Peters, a free African American man. They struggle with poverty and giving birth to a child. She died December 5, 1784 at the age of 31.