My Name Is Phillis Wheatley

Afua Cooper's young adult novel is based on the true story of Phillis Wheatley, who was sold into slavery as a young girl and earned fame through her poetry.

Afua Cooper

This is the remarkable story of Phillis Wheatley, who is born into an African family of griots, or storytellers, but captured by slave raiders and forced aboard a slave ship, where appalling conditions spell death for many of her companions. Numerous sharks follow the ship, feeding on the corpses of slaves thrown overboard.

Weakened by the voyage and near death in a Boston slave market, Wheatley is bought by a kind family who nurses her back to health and teaches her to read and write. Soon her mistress recognizes that the girl is a quick learner and talented. At the age of 12, a torrent of poetry begins to flow out of Wheatley. Proud of her achievements, her mistress organizes readings in Boston's finest parlours and drawing rooms, and Wheatley's fame spreads. But even when many in Boston are calling her a prodigy and a genius, some remain unsure that a slave should be able to write, much less write poetry. When Phillis travels to London she is a media sensation, feted by the cream of English society. A book of her poems is published, and she finally gains her freedom. (From Kids Can Press)

From the book

The green silk gown does me well, likewise the white bonnet. My mistress had insisted that I dress plainly. Strands of my undisciplined locks peek from my bonnet. I pinch myself. This cannot be happening to me. To me. Phillis Wheatley.

There is a knock on my door. "Miss Wheatley, it's time to go down." Amelia, the Irish woman assigned as my maid, stands on the landing. "You look beautiful, ma'am."

From My Name Is Phillis Wheatley by Afua Cooper ©2009. Published by Kids Can Press.