Phillis Wheatley’s Fight against Slavery Essay

Phillis Wheatley’s Fight against Slavery Essay

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Phillis Wheatley is a gem of her time; the first African-American woman to have her poetry published. Though purchased as a slave, her life was far from most African-Americans during the 17th century. She was educated and became deeply rooted in her faith: Christianity. From an outsider, her life may be viewed as an adopted child rather than a slave to the Wheatley family. However, she did not forget where she came from or those less fortunate than herself. Wheatley used the education she was afforded and her new-found spirituality to fight against slavery through the use of words (751). One of the greatest examples of this is her poem “To the University of Cambridge, in New England” addressed to perhaps the well-educated group of individuals in early America. Wheatley purposely does so to convey her assertion; regardless of your education or status, even the most educated in America, must view the teachings of the Bible in the highest respect. Though Wheatley’s education was far beneath the Harvard University students, she feels compelled to teach them about the importance of the Bible and living a life free from sin; the act of slavery in particular. Wheatley asserts that while the sin of slavery may be convenient on Earth it will eventually land the students and those who practice it in hell, according to the Bible (756). Through her use of the first person point of view, tone, and allusion, Wheatley is able to provide justification for her theme: slavery is a sin punishable by God.
Wheatley’s use of the first person allows readers into her own thought processes. The title of the poem itself: “To the University of Cambridge, in New England,” identifies Wheatley’s target audience; Harvard University students. During the earl...

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...racter and provoke questions as to the morality of slavery. She successfully does so by using profound references throughout the Bible and creating a sincere and very serious tone throughout the poem. Her agenda was very clear; she aimed to inform and to perhaps rid students of the sin of slavery. However, she mentions that it will be the student’s decision to either continue or put an end to this evil knowing the potential consequences afterlife. Most-importantly, Wheatley informs them that regardless of their decision to fight against or to continue the practice of slavery, their lives’ will be judged be it a “good or bad report of [them] to Heav’n” (23).

Works Cited

Baym, Nina, Wayne Franklin, Philip F. Gura, and Arnold Krupat. "Phillis Wheatley."
The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 7th ed. Vol. A. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2007. 751-56. Print.

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