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Week 17 | Phyllis Wheatley

Week 17 | Phyllis Wheatley

"Imagination! Who can sing thy force?"- Phyllis Wheatley

From her lyrical poem, On Imagination

Phyllis Wheatley’s story is exceptional. As a young slave in colonial America, she defied every expectation by becoming a celebrated, published poet—the first African American!—and public intellectual. Despite countless impediments, she mastered English, Greek, and Latin, and penned elegant, classical style poems. Her poem “On Imagination” which demonstrates her knowledge of Greek mythology and the invocation of muses, is in some ways an ode to the very faculties and sheer intellectual force that led to her emancipation. Her extraordinary achievements defied all expectations and provided a refutation of slavery era prejudices.

In our illustration, the shadow of the book gives wings to the young woman depicted, allowing her to soar.

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