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Notwithstanding the prejudices against her race, social status, gender, and age, Wheatley became the first published woman of African descent in 1767.She gained international recognition with her funeral elegy on the death of the evangelist George Whitefield, addressed to his English patron, the Countess of Huntingdon, and published in Boston and London in 1770.Wheatley appears to use slavery in this conventional sense in the poem: No more, America, in mournful strain Of wrongs, and grievance unredress’d complain, No longer shall thou dread the iron chain, Which wanton Tyranny with lawless hand Had made, and with it meant t’enslave the land. Her anti-slavery stance became more overt once she was free than in her poems published while she had been enslaved.
By 1772, Wheatley had written enough poems to enable her to try to capitalize on her growing transatlantic reputation by producing a book of previously published and new works.
Unable to find a publisher in Boston, in part because of racial prejudice, Wheatley and her owners successfully sought a London publisher and Huntingdon’s patronage in 1773 for her Phillis Wheatley’s trip to London with her master’s son to arrange for the publication of her book was a turning point in her personal and professional lives.
” The hopes that Phillis Wheatley brought home with her from England were soon frustrated.
She did not live to see the enfranchisement of her fellow people of African descent. Susanna Wheatley died within months of Phillis’s return from London.
Phillis returned to Boston shortly before her book was published.
Within a month of her return, she wrote a friend that she had been freed “at the desire of my friends in England.” She had apparently agreed to return only after her owner was compelled to promise to free her if she did.
The cause of her death is unknown, but it may have been related to the “Asthmatic complaint” she suffered from in previous winters.
The first American edition of her was not published until 1786, in Philadelphia.
Peters, who at various times in his life advertised himself as a lawyer, physician, and gentleman, was repeatedly jailed for debt.
He was probably in prison when Phillis died on 5 December 1784, when she was about thirty-one years old.