David Waldstreicher with The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley: A Poet's Journeys Through American Slavery and Independence
Presented in partnership with Boston Public Library, Museum of African American History, and GBH Forum Network
Moderated by L’Merchie Frazier, visual activist, public historian and artist, innovator and poet
A paradigm-shattering biography of the celebrated poet Phillis Wheatley, whose extraordinary work set African American literature at the heart of the American Revolution.
Admired by George Washington, ridiculed by Thomas Jefferson, published in London, and read far and wide, Phillis Wheatley led one of the most extraordinary American lives. Seized in West Africa and forced into slavery as a child, she was sold to a merchant family in Boston, where she became a noted poet at a young age. Mastering the Bible, Greek and Latin translations, and the works of Pope and Milton, she composed elegies for local elites and celebrated political events, adding her voice to a vibrant, multisided conversation about race, slavery, and discontent with British rule. In this new biography, the historian David Waldstreicher offers the fullest account to date of Wheatley’s life and works, correcting myths, reconstructing intimate friendships, and deepening our understanding of her verse and the revolutionary era.
David Waldstreicher teaches history at the City University of New York Graduate Center and is the author of Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification and Runaway America: Benjamin Franklin, Slavery, and the American Revolution. He has written for The New York Times Book Review, Boston Review, and The Atlantic, among other publications.
L’Merchie Frazier is a visual activist, public historian and artist, innovator, and poet. She is Executive Director of Creative / Strategic PLANNING for SPOKE Arts and former Director of Education and Interpretation for the Museum of African American History, Boston/Nantucket, and was recently named an Art Commissioner for Massachusetts.