———, ed., Critical Essays on Phillis Wheatley, G. K. Hall, 1982, pp. 248-57. Africans were brought over on slave ships, as was Wheatley, having been kidnapped or sold by other Africans, and were used for field labor or as household workers. 3That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too: 4Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. Phillis Wheatley's poem "On Being Brought from Africa to America" appeared in her 1773 volume Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, the first full-length published work by an African American author. Wheatley and Women's History The Quakers were among the first to champion the abolition of slavery. discusses being brought from her "Pagan land" to America, where she is introduced to the idea of God and Christianity. Research the history of slavery in America and why it was an important topic for the founders in their planning for the country. In a few short lines, the poem "On Being Brought from Africa to America" juxtaposes religious language with the institution of slavery, to touch on the ideas of equality, salvation, and liberty. There was no precedent for it. Boren, M.E. This question was discussed by the Founding Fathers and the first American citizens as well as by people in Europe. At this point, the poem displaces its biblical legitimation by drawing attention to its own achievement, as inherent testimony to its argument. Carretta and Gould note the problems of being a literate black in the eighteenth century, having more than one culture or language. (read the full definition & explanation with examples), Read the full text of “On Being Brought from Africa to America”, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, "The Privileged and Impoverished Life of Phillis Wheatley". Today: African American women are regularly winners of the highest literary prizes; for instance, Toni Morrison won the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature, and Suzan-Lori Parks won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The brief poem “Harlem” introduces themes that run throughout Langston Hughes’s volume Montage of a Dream Deferred and throughout his…, Langston Hughes 1902–1967 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. From the start, critics have had difficulty disentangling the racial and literary issues. Deonca Pierce ENG 350 American Literature I 2 September 2011 Response paper 3: “On Being Brought from Africa to America” To the literary world, Phillis Wheatley is recognized as the first black American poet (Archiving Early America, 2011). Arthur P. Davis, writing in Critical Essays on Phillis Wheatley, comments that far from avoiding her black identity, Wheatley uses that identity to advantage in her poems and letters through "racial underscoring," often referring to herself as an "Ethiop" or "Afric." Her poems have the familiar invocations to the muses (the goddesses of inspiration), references to Greek and Roman gods and stories, like the tragedy of Niobe, and place names like Olympus and Parnassus. The word Some also introduces a more critical tone on the part of the speaker, as does the word Remember, which becomes an admonition to those who call themselves "Christians" but do not act as such. 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. It is no accident that what follows in the final lines is a warning about the rewards for the redeemed after death when they "join th' angelic train" (8). Importantly, she mentions that the act of understanding God and Savior comes from the soul. The justification was given that the participants in a republican government must possess the faculty of reason, and it was widely believed that Africans were not fully human or in possession of adequate reason. 7Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain. Wheatley's English publisher, Archibald Bell, for instance, advertised that Wheatley was "one of the greatest instances of pure, unassisted Genius, that the world ever produced." This idea sums up a gratitude whites might have expected, or demanded, from a Christian slave. Rather than creating distinctions, the speaker actually collapses those which the "some" have worked so hard to create and maintain, the source of their dwindling authority (at least within the precincts of the poem). to America") was published by Archibald Bell of London. Indeed, the idea of anyone, black or white, being in a state of ignorance if not knowing Christ is prominent in her poems and letters. That is, she applies the doctrine to the black race. 'Twas mercy brought me from my In this sense, white and black people are utterly equal before God, whose authority transcends the paltry earthly authorities who have argued for the inequality of the two races. Both races inherit the barbaric blackness of sin. 36, No. Line 3 further explains what coming into the light means: knowing God and Savior. This is a chronological anthology of black women writers from the colonial era through the Civil War and Reconstruction and into the early twentieth century. THEMES On Being Brought From Africa to America Phillis Wheatley : 1 : On Being Brought From Africa to America. Even before the Revolution, black slaves in Massachusetts were making legal petitions for their freedom on the basis of their natural rights. This line is meaningful to an Evangelical Christian because one's soul needs to be in a state of grace, or sanctified by Christ, upon leaving the earth. Mrs. Wheatley, the wife of the plantation owner that Phillis lived on, helped her to Phillis Wheatley Peters, also spelled Phyllis and Wheatly (c. 1753 – December 5, 1784) was the first African-American author of a published book of poetry. Later rebellions in the South were often fostered by black Christian ministers, a tradition that was epitomized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s civil rights movement. Abolitionists like Rush used Wheatley as proof for the argument of black humanity, an issue then debated by philosophers. The poet needs some extrinsic warrant for making this point in the artistic maneuvers of her verse. It is supposed that she was a native of Senegal or nearby, since the ship took slaves from the west coast of Africa. Read more of Wheatley's poems and write a paper comparing her work to some of the poems of her eighteenth-century model. 189, 193. The reception became such because the poem does not explicitly challenge slavery and almost seems to subtly approve of it, in that it brought about the poet's Christianity. — An online version of Wheatley's poetry collection, including "On Being Brought from Africa to America.". Poet In thusly alluding to Isaiah, Wheatley initially seems to defer to scriptural authority, then transforms this legitimation into a form of artistic self-empowerment, and finally appropriates this biblical authority through an interpreting ministerial voice. This position called for a strategy by which she cleverly empowered herself with moral authority through irony, the critic claims in a Style article. She was in a sinful and ignorant state, not knowing God or Christ. The Lord's attendant train is the retinue of the chosen referred to in the preceding allusion to Isaiah in Wheatley's poem. So many in the world do not know God or Christ. 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. Christians A sensation in her own day, Wheatley was all but forgotten until scrutinized under the lens of African American studies in the twentieth century. 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). The last two lines refer to the equality inherent in Christian doctrine in regard to salvation, for Christ accepted everyone. If allowances have finally been made for her difficult position as a slave in Revolutionary Boston, black readers and critics still have not forgiven her the literary sin of writing to white patrons in neoclassical couplets. Suddenly, the audience is given an opportunity to view racism from a new perspective, and to either accept or reject this new ideological position. On Being Brought from Africa to America - 'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, 'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, - The Academy of American Poets is the largest membership-based nonprofit organization fostering an appreciation for contemporary poetry and supporting American poets. Following the poem (from Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773), are some observations about its treatment of the theme of enslavement: On being brought from Africa to America. This latter point refutes the notion, held by many of Wheatley's contemporaries, that Cain, marked by God, is the progenitor of the black race only. Give a report on the history of Quaker involvement in the antislavery movement. Wheatley perhaps included the reference to Cain for dramatic effect, to lead into the Christian doctrine of forgiveness, emphasized in line 8. The early reviews, often written by people who had met her, refer to her as a genius. She was bought by Susanna Wheatley, the wife of a Boston merchant, and given a name composed from the name of the slave ship, "Phillis," and her master's last name. Albeit grammatically correct, this comma creates a trace of syntactic ambiguity that quietly instates both Christians and Negroes as the mutual offspring of Cain who are subject to refinement by divine grace. In fact, the whole thrust of the poem is to prove the paradox that in being enslaved, she was set free in a spiritual sense. She was about twenty years old, black, and a woman. She was thus part of the emerging dialogue of the new republic, and her poems to leading public figures in neoclassical couplets, the English version of the heroic meters of the ancient Greek poet Homer, were hailed as masterpieces. 215-33. https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/being-brought-africa-america, "On Being Brought from Africa to America Colonized people living under an imposed culture can have two identities. … Wheatley's cultural awareness is even more evident in the poem "On Being Brought From Africa to America," written the year after the Harvard poem in 1768. 103-104. — An overview of Wheatley's life and work. 18, 33, 71, 82, 89-90. The result is that those who would cast black Christians as other have now been placed in a like position. In addition, Wheatley's language consistently emphasizes the worth of black Christians. For Wheatley's management of the concept of refinement is doubly nuanced in her poem. Wheatley, Phillis, Complete Writings, edited by Vincent Carretta, Penguin Books, 2001. 8May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train. 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). Surely, too, she must have had in mind the clever use of syntax in the penultimate line of her poem, as well as her argument, conducted by means of imagery and nuance, for the equality of both races in terms of their mutually "benighted soul." LitCharts Teacher Editions. 135-40. Judging from a full reading of her poems, it does not seem likely that she herself ever accepted such a charge against her race. 27, 1992, pp. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Some readers, looking for protests against slavery in her work, have been disenchanted upon instead finding poems like "On Being Brought from Africa to America" to reveal a meek acceptance of her slave fate. Wheatley's shift from first to third person in the first and second stanzas is part of this approach. (including. With almost a third of her poetry written as elegies on the deaths of various people, Wheatley was probably influenced by the Puritan funeral elegy of colonial America, explains Gregory Rigsby in the College Language Association Journal. In context, it seems she felt that slavery was immoral and that God would deliver her race in time. 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. Remember, Indeed, racial issues in Wheatley's day were of primary importance as the new nation sought to shape its identity. Today: African Americans are educated and hold political office, even becoming serious contenders for the office of president of the United States. For example, while the word die is clearly meant to refer to skin pigmentation, it also suggests the ultimate fate that awaits all people, regardless of color or race. Religion was the main interest of Wheatley's life, inseparable from her poetry and its themes. African American Review. In the following essay, Scheick argues that in "On Being Brought from Africa to America," Wheatleyrelies on biblical allusions to erase the difference between the races. ." In this poem Wheatley gives her white readers argumentative and artistic proof; and she gives her black readers an example of how to appropriate biblical ground to self-empower their similar development of religious and cultural refinement. Particularly apt is the clever syntax of the last two lines of the poem: "Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain / May be refin'd." As placed in Wheatley's poem, this allusion can be read to say that being white (silver) is no sign of privilege (spiritually or culturally) because God's chosen are refined (purified, made spiritually white) through the afflictions that Christians and Negroes have in common, as mutually benighted descendants of Cain. Taught my benighted soul to understand Wheatley's identity was therefore somehow bound up with the country's in a visible way, and that is why from that day to this, her case has stood out, placing not only her views on trial but the emerging country's as well, as Gates points out. Line 7 is one of the difficult lines in the poem. The multiple meanings of the line "Remember, Christians, Negroes black as Cain" (7), with its ambiguous punctuation and double entendres, have become a critical commonplace in analyses of the poem. Both black and white critics have wrestled with placing her properly in either American studies or African American studies. Those who have contended that Wheatley had no thoughts on slavery have been corrected by such poems as the one to the Earl of Dartmouth, the British secretary of state for North America. She does more here than remark that representatives of the black race may be refined into angelic matter—made, as it were, spiritually white through redemptive Christianizing. This poem must be about the speaker's thoughts about being brought as a slave from Africa (West Africa, probably, like Senegal or Gambia—someplace that was not a Christian country at the time) to America. In fact, all three readings operate simultaneously to support Wheatley's argument. Among her tests for aesthetic refinement, Wheatley doubtless had in mind her careful management of metrics and rhyme in "On Being Brought from Africa to America." How do her concerns differ or converge with other black authors? 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. Calling herself such a lost soul here indicates her understanding of what she was before being saved by her religion. on being brought from africa to america intended audience Andersen holds a PhD in literature and teaches literature and writing. She did not know that she was in a sinful state. She had been publishing poems and letters in American newspapers on both religious matters and current topics. 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). That slavery was often remarked upon in Europe lines refer to each ’. 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