Phillis Wheatley was the first African American to publish a book and the first American woman to seek to earn a living from her writings. Born in West Africa, she was purchased by Susanna and John Wheatley at age seven or eight. Susanna taught her to read and write. Her Poems, rejected in racist Boston, were first published in London, financed by Selena Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon. They reflect Wheatley’s breadth of learning, identity as an African, and life as an enslaved woman. This first edition belonged to Melatiah Bent, a widowed tavern keeper. Wheatley signed the verso of the title page.
Wheatley, Phillis, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, London: Printed for A. Bell, 1773, Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Accessed October 19, 2021, https://exhibits.library.duke.edu/exhibits/show/baskin/item/4039