Slavery was the contradiction of the new nation that had stated that "all men are created equal" and have "inalienable" rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Furthermore, many of the country's leaders believed that the African slaves were inferior to whites. No
one was familiar with the idea of slaves writing poetry, since most slaves were not even allowed to learn to read and write. Given the hardships
of life in early America, it is ironic that some of the best poetry was written by a very talented slave woman, named Phillis Wheatley.
Phillis Wheatley was born in Africa and brought to Boston, Massachusetts around the age of seven. A wealthy tailor, named Phillis Wheatley, purchased her in order to be a companion for his wife. As soon as the Wheatley's purchased her, they realized that Phillis was very
remarkable. So, they allowed her to stop working in order to spend most of her time studying.
The Wheatleys taught her English, Christianity,
Latin, and Ancient History. With her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) being published in England, she became an
Wheatley's poem, addressed "To the Right Honorable William, Earl of Dartmouth", dealt with the slave issues. In the poem she speaks about her experience of being "snatched from Afric" and her misery. This, as well as, her other poems began a strong African American tradition in American poetry. African American poetry retained its concern with the pertinent issues of the American Revolution, including liberty, independence, equality, and identity. Moreover, African American poetry expressed the African American experiences of divided loyalties. Phillis Wheatley's poetic themes seem to be very religious, and her style, similar to that of Philip Freneau, is neoclassical. Her poem, "To S.M., a Young African Painter, on...