This Relation is given by her Master who bought her, and with whom she now lives. Recall that this seven-year-old slave spoke no English upon her arrival in 1761. By 1765, she had written her first poem; in 1767, at the age of thirteen or fourteen, she published her first poem; in 1770, at the age of sixteen or seventeen she immortalized the boston massacre in her poem, "On the Affray in King. That same year, her elegy on the death of the reverend george Whitfield would be published within weeks of his sudden death in Newburyport, massachusetts, during a speaking tour. This exceptionally popular poem was published as a broadside in Boston in 1770, and then again in Newport, four more times in Boston, and a dozen times in New York, philadelphia, and Newport. It was this poem that gained for Wheatley a wide readership both in England and the United States. Delighted with her slave's dazzling abilities and her growing fame, susannah Wheatley set out to have phillis's work collected and published as a book.
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According to robinson, Phillis's Boston consisted of 15,520 people in 1765, 1,000 of whom were black. Of this black population only eighteen, as of 1762, were free. Between Phillis's arrival in 1761 and her death in 1784, "no black children robinson continues, "could be counted among the more than 800 young scholars enrolled in the city's two grammar or Latin schools and the three vocational writing schools.". John and Susannah Wheatley had eighteen-year-old twins, nathaniel and Mary, who were living at home when Phillis arrived. For reasons never explained, mary, apparently with her mother's enthusiastic encouragement, began to teach the child slave to read. Phillis, by all accounts, was a summary keen and quick pupil. Mary tutored Phillis in English, latin, and the bible. William Robinson aptly calls her "rewardingly precocious." As her master would write in 1772 of her intellect and her progress in letters: Without any Assistance from School Education, and by only what she was taught in the family, she, in sixteen Months Time from her. As to her Writing, her own Curiosity led her to it; and this she learnt in so short a time, that in the year 1765, she wrote a letter to the reverend. Occom, the Indian Minister, while in England. She has great Inclination to learn the latin tongue, and has made some progress.
The ship had recently returned from gathering slaves in Senegal, sierra leone, and the Isles de los, off the coast of guinea. Among its cargo was "a slender frail, female child a wheatley relative would write, "supposed to have been about seven years old, at this time, from the circumstances of shedding her front teeth." It's a fair guess that she would have been a native wolof. Susanna Wheatley, wife of the prosperous tailor and merchant, john Wheatley, in response to advertisements in the. Boston evening Post and the, boston gazette and country journal in July and August, went to the schooner to purchase a house servant. Wheatley acquired the child at the wharf on beach Street "for a trifle one of her descendants tells us, "as the captain had fears of her dropping off his hands, without emolument, by death." The child was "naked covered only by "a quantity of dirty. Both the Stamp Act riots of 1765 and the boston Massacre of 1770 took place down the street from her front door. Wheatley's loving biographer, william Robinson, estimates her purchase price as less than ten pounds. Susannah Wheatley named the child "Phillis ironically enough, after the name of the schooner that had brought her from Africa.
Here truly was a full plenum of talent and privilege, cultivation and power. There were six staunch loyalists, and several signal figures in the battle for independence. Of these eighteen gentlemen, nearly all were harvard graduates and a majority were slaveholders: one, thomas Hubbard had actually been a dealer in slaves. Another, the reverend Charles Chauncy, in 1743 had attacked the Great Awakening because it allowed "women and girls; yea do the business of preachers." In the hands of this group, a self-constituted judge and jury, rested the fate of a teenage slave named Phillis Wheatley. Why had this august tribunal been assembled by john Wheatley, phillis's master? They had one simple charge: to determine whether Phillis Wheatley was truly the author of the poems she claimed to have written. And to understand how fraught this moment was, we need to turn from the judges to the one they were judging. The girl who came to be known as Phillis Wheatley came to town on July 11, 1761, on board a schooner, named the Phillis.
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Hancock would go on to become the third president of the continental Congress, and the first governor of the commonwealth. The reverend Samuel Mather, son of Cotton Mather, graduated from Harvard College in 1723. He was Thomas Hutchinson's brother-in-law. Mather's career as a minister was quite controversial-he was charged with "improper conduct" in 1741, and though found innocent, was dismissed that same year from his pulpit at the second Church in Boston. (Misbehavior among Boston clerics was regarded less leniently than would later be the case!) Mather is principally remembered for his library, which Mason.
Lowance describes as "one of the greatest in New England." But he is also remembered, lowance concludes, as "the end of that dynasty" that had commenced with his great-grandfather Richard in 1630. Three poets would have been present that morning: in addition to samuel cooper, and the reverend Mather Byles, there was the loyalist scribe joseph Green. David Robinson calls Green "the foremost wit of his day and he and Mather Byles often exchanged satiric poems and parodies. Once it was clear which way the wind was blowing, Green fled to london, in 1775; he died in exile five years later. What an writing astounding collection of people were gathered in the room that morning-relations and rivals, friends, and foes.
He was the only minister of the Brattle Street Church between 1747 and his death in 1783. Known as "the silver-tongued preacher cooper was Minister to no less than "one-fourth of Boston's merchants and more than half of Boston's selectmen as Frederick. Mills continues: "Cooper was at the center of an inner circle consisting of James Otis, john Hancock, james Bowdoin, joseph Warren, and Samuel Adams, who showed outward respect for governor Thomas Hutchinson at the same time they kept agitation against British policy focused." so pivotal. The august James Bowdoin was included in this circle of inquisition as well. Bowdoin was one of the principal American exemplars of the Enlightenment.
A close friend of Franklin, he was a student of electricity and astronomy, as well as a poet, publishing a volume entitled. A paraphrase on Part of the oeconomy of Human Life in 1759 and four poems in the volume entitled "Harvard Verses" presented to george iii in 1762 "in an attempt to gain royal patronage for the struggling college, as Gordon. His remarkable library contained 1,200 volumes, ranging in subjects from science and math to philosophy, religion, poetry, and fiction. By the time of this interview, he had become a vocal opponent of governor Hutchinson's policies. Bowdoin would become head of the new Massachusetts government in 1776. In addition to opposing the policies of the royalists in the room, bowdoin was also a steadfast foe of "his old political enemy john Hancock, who preceded him as governor of the commonwealth. Hancock needs little introduction to this audience. Like bowdoin, hancock prepared for Harvard at Boston Latin, then graduated from Harvard in the class of 1754, the second youngest in a class of twenty, in which he ranked fifth, william Fowler notes, as "an indication of his family's prominence." Upon his Uncle's Thomas's.
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The reverend Mather Byles, still another Harvard graduate, was the first and only minister of the hollis Street Congregational Church in Boston between 17Byles was the grandson shredder of Increase mather; Cotton Mather was his uncle. Like hutchinson and Oliver, byles was a tory loyalist, and would lose his pulpit when Massachusetts finally rebelled. Byles was highly regarded for his wit, but would become famous, too, for delivering eulogies at state funerals. As a student, he had corresponded with Alexander Pope and Isaac Watts, and in 1744, published his own book of poetry, poems on several Occasions. Byles was sentenced to banishment, later commuted to house arrest, for his loyalist views. (Ever the wit, mary plan Rhinelander McCarl tells us, byles called the sentry stationed just outside of his home his "Observe-a-tory. he died in Boston, dependent upon the charity of his friends. The reverend Samuel cooper received his. From Harvard in 17, respectively.
So precocious was he that he entered Harvard College at the age of twelve, "where calhoon continues, "his social standing entitled him to be ranked third in his class." (Even in its first century, then, grade inflation had reared its ugly head on the banks. Hutchinson was the massachusetts governor between 17Following the boston tea party, hutchinson went to london "for consultations." His family joined him in exile; just four years following this examination, he would receive an honorary degree from the University of Oxford on, of all days, july. Hutchinson never returned to this beloved estate in Milton. At Hutchinson's side in the makeshift seminar room would have sat Andrew Oliver, the colony's lieutenant governor and Hutchinson's brother-in-law, who took the. Degrees from Harvard, in 17Oliver became-along with his brother and business partner, peter, and with Thomas Hutchinson-"leaders of the hutchinson-Oliver faction, which dominated provincial Massachusetts politics until the eve of the American revolution as Calhoon tells. Angry crowds ransacked the homes of both Hutchinson and Oliver in response to the passage of the Stamp Act age in 1765, uprooting Oliver's much admired garden. A year and a half after this meeting, Oliver would die of a stroke, not unrelated, it was assumed, to boston's political climate on the eve of revolution.
sat an astonishingly influential group of the colony's citizens determined to satisfy for themselves, and thus put to rest, fundamental questions about the authenticity of this woman's literary achievements. Their interrogation of this witness, and her answers, would determine not only this woman's fate, but the subsequent direction of the antislavery movement, as well as the birth of what a later commentator would call "a new species of literature the literature written by slaves. Who would this young woman have confronted that day in the early autumn of 1772? At the center no doubt would have sat His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, governor of the colony. Hutchinson, a colonial historian and a royal official, who would end his life in England as a loyalist refugee, was born in Boston into a wealthy family descended from merchants. (Anne hutchinson was also an ancestor.) young Thomas, robert. Calhoon tells us, preferred "reading history to playing with other children" and early on became an admirer of Charles.
Even when nobody was at the table with him, someone was cooking for him, someone was bringing him his food, and somebody was busy planning his next meal. And the chances are good that some of those people were African Americans. Jefferson's owl relation to African Americans has received a great deal of attention of late, most notably in discussions about his putative paternity of Sally hemings's children. This is not my subject this evening. Rather, i want to discuss with you one of the most dramatic contests over literacy, authenticity, and humanity in the history of race relations in this country, a contest in which Jefferson himself played a small role. Bear with me as I try to recreate imaginatively a curious scenario indeed. The historical record is sparse; for our purpose, let us elaborate upon it with a tissue of conjecture. On October 8, 1772, a small, delicate African woman, about eighteen years of age, walks into a room, perhaps in Boston's Town Hall, the Old Colony house, to be interviewed by eighteen gentlemen so august that they could later allow themselves to be identified publicly.
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Tonight marks the thirtieth anniversary of the jefferson Lectures, which began in April 1972 with lionel Trilling's address on "Mind in the modern World." As difficult as it is to believe, the jefferson Lectures are more than a tenth as old as the nation they. I am honored and humbled to join a line of succession that includes saul Bellow, walker Percy, toni morrison, john Hope Franklin, and so many other scholars and writers whom I deeply admire, and I'd like to thank the neh and the national council. I stand here as a fellow countryman of Thomas Jefferson, in several senses: as a citizen, like all of you, of the republic of letters; as an American who believes deeply in the soaring promise of the declaration of Independence-housed so near to. Judging from all the dna disclosures of the last few years, i'm probably even related to jefferson. (Actually, i am more interested in the gates dna connectionlike maybe in Redmond, washington.) For all of us, white and black alike, jefferson remains an essential ancestor. President Kennedy famously addressed a group of distinguished intellectuals by saying they were the greatest lined gathering of brilliant thinkers to visit the White house since jefferson dined alone. It's a great line-but I don't think jefferson ever did dine alone.