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Earliest known full-length elegy by famed American poet Phillis Wheatley discovered

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Posted (IP: Staff) ·

A University at Albany professor has discovered the earliest known full-length elegy by famed poet Phillis Wheatley (Peters), widely regarded as the first Black person, enslaved person and one of the first women in America to publish a book of poetry.

English professor Wendy Raphael Roberts found the elegy, titled "On the Death of Love Rotch" and dated 1767, in a Quaker commonplace book at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania while conducting research into Wheatley's life and legacy. While the elegy was never claimed by the poet, it was attributed to her by a trustworthy manuscript witness embedded in Wheatley's network and local poetry scene.

The discovery expands Wheatley's canon at a time of growing interest in and scholarship around the poet, and provides new evidence for her presence and influence in Nantucket; New Bedford, Mass.; and Newport, R.I.; which were home to early abolitionist movements in the U.S.


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On Being Brought from Africa to America
          by Phyllis Wheately

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.


Edited by Ozymandias
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