'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand That there's a … Chosen by Him, the speaker is again thrust into the role of preacher, one with a mission to save others. Because she was physically frail, she did light housework in the Wheatley household and was a favorite companion to Susanna. The early reviews, often written by people who had met her, refer to her as a genius. Smith, Eleanor, "Phillis Wheatley: A Black Perspective," in Journal of Negro Education, Vol. "May be refined" can be read either as synonymous for ‘can’ or as a warning: No one, neither Christians nor Negroes, should take salvation for granted. A sensation in her own day, Wheatley was all but forgotten until scrutinized under the lens of African American studies in the twentieth century. In fact, although the lines of the first quatrain in "On Being Brought from Africa to America" are usually interpreted as celebrating the mercy of her white captors, they are more accurately read as celebrating the mercy of God for delivering her from sin. Religion was the main interest of Wheatley's life, inseparable from her poetry and its themes. There was no precedent for it. — An overview of Wheatley's life and work. In fact, the Wheatleys introduced Phillis to their circle of Evangelical antislavery friends. She does not, however, stipulate exactly whose act of mercy it was that saved her, God's or man's. Wheatley, Phillis, Complete Writings, edited by Vincent Carretta, Penguin Books, 2001. 43, No. 1-13. While it suggests the darkness of her African skin, it also resonates with the state of all those living in sin, including her audience. Though lauded in her own day for overcoming the then unimaginable boundaries of race, slavery, and gender, by the twentieth century Wheatley was vilified, primarily for her poem "On Being Brought from Africa to America." 1-8" (Mason 75-76). Therein, she implores him to right America's wrongs and be a just administrator. The resulting verse sounds pompous and inauthentic to the modern ear, one of the problems that Wheatley has among modern audiences. What were their beliefs about slavery? "In every human breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Lov…, Gwendolyn Brooks 1917–2000 Retrieved January 12, 2021 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/being-brought-africa-america. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list. This essay investigates Jefferson's scientific inquiry into racial differences and his conclusions that Native Americans are intelligent and that African Americans are not. 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). 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. Struggling with distance learning? She proved … Redemption in that, the subject is saved from her pagan way of life. The final and highly ironic demonstration of otherness, of course, would be one's failure to understand the very poem that enacts this strategy. To be "benighted" is to be in moral or spiritual darkness as a result of ignorance or lack of enlightenment, certainly a description with which many of Wheatley's audience would have agreed. , Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html. Parks, Carole A., "Phillis Wheatley Comes Home," in Black World, Vo. In this verse, however, Wheatley has adeptly managed biblical allusions to do more than serve as authorizations for her writing; as finally managed in her poem, these allusions also become sites where this license is transformed into an artistry that in effect becomes exemplarily self-authorized. 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. Today: Oprah Winfrey is the first African American television correspondent; she becomes a global media figure, actress, and philanthropist. This word functions not only as a biblical allusion, but also as an echo of the opening two lines of the poem: "'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, / Taught my benighted soul to understand." Through the argument that she and others of her race can be saved, Wheatley slyly establishes that blacks are equal to whites. Baker, Houston A., Jr., Workings of the Spirit: The Poetics of Afro-American Women's Writing, University of Chicago Press, 1991. Proof consisted in their inability to understand mathematics or philosophy or to produce art. ." Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers, Basic Civitas Books, 2003, pp. Like them (the line seems to suggest), "Once I redemption neither sought nor knew" (4; my emphasis). "On Being Brought from Africa to America" finally changes from a meditation to a sermon when Wheatley addresses an audience in her exhortation in the last two lines. 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. While Wheatley's poetry gave fuel to abolitionists who argued that blacks were rational and human and therefore ought not be treated as beasts, Thomas Jefferson found Wheatley's poems imitative and beneath notice. Wheatley, however, applies the doctrine of salvation in an unusual way for most of her readers; she broadens it into a political or sociological discussion as well. Mrs. Wheatley, the wife of the plantation owner that Phillis lived on, helped her to In the following essay on "On Being Brought from Africa to America," she focuses on Phillis Wheatley's self-styled personaand its relation to American history, as well as to popular perceptions of the poet herself. The European colonization of the Americas inspired a desire for cheap labor for the development of the land. 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. to America") was published by Archibald Bell of London. Susanna Wheatley, her mistress, became a second mother to her, and Wheatley adopted her mistress's religion as her own, thus winning praise in the Boston of her day as being both an intelligent and spiritual being. The line leads the reader to reflect that Wheatley was not as naive, or as shielded from prejudice, as some have thought. Calling herself such a lost soul here indicates her understanding of what she was before being saved by her religion. Such couplets were usually closed and full sentences, with parallel structure for both halves. She was baptized a Christian and began publishing her own poetry in her early teens. That same year, an elegy that she wrote upon the death of the Methodist preacher George Whitefield made her famous both in America and in England. Wheatley wrote in neoclassical couplets of iambic pentameter, following the example of the most popular English poet of the times, Alexander Pope. In the following excerpt, Balkun analyzes "On Being Brought from Africa to America" and asserts that Wheatley uses the rhetoric of white culture to manipulate her audience. Davis, Arthur P., "The Personal Elements in the Poetry of Phillis Wheatley," in Critical Essays on Phillis Wheatley, edited by William H. Robinson, G. K. Hall, 1982, p. 95. 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