Wednesday 12 August 2009

The Story of Phillis Wheatley - the Poet Quoted on Mary Hopkin's Ackworth Sampler

International collaboration and research wins though yet again. Rosemary Huskey in Idaho has discovered not only the identity of the female Negro poet and slave who wrote the verse which Mary Hopkins stitched on her Ackworth Sampler in 1799, but an image of her also. Phillis Wheatley was named Phillis after the slave ship which took her from her home in West Africa and Wheatley after the master who bought her, aged 8, when she arrived in Boston. John Wheatley's daughter taught Phillis to read the Bible as well as English, Latin and Greek classics. Phillis visited England in 1773 and her book of verse was published there with the help of finance from the Countess of Huntingdon. Soon after she returned to Boston she was emancipated. In 1778 she married John Peters, a free African, and their life of freedom was one of economic hardship. They had two children, both dying in infancy. A third child was born and mother and child, abandoned by John Peters, died on 5th December 1784. Phyllis was about 30 years old. To read more of Phillis Wheatley's story click here.


  1. Thank you for all those glimpses on history, Jacqueline, particularly this one,which has something of a detective story!!

  2. How sad the way she died with her child. Thank you for sharing a bit of her life with us.

  3. Yes, it is tragic that emancipation and freedom often resulted in great hardship. There is a very compelling book by Eugene Genovese called Roll Jordan Roll if you are interested in more background.