This Day in Black History: Feb. 28, 1784

Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American woman to publish a book, died at the age of 31.

Posted: 02/28/2013 08:00 AM EST

(Photo: Public Domain)

Phillis Wheatley only lived to be 31, but she broke color barriers during her short life as the first African-American woman to be published. She passed away on Feb. 28, 1784.

Wheatley was born in Gambia, West Africa, in 1753 and was seized and transported to Boston at the age of seven. When she arrived she was sold to John and Susanna Wheatley.

As a child the Wheatleys taught her to read and write and she eventually published her first collection of poems in a book called Poems on Various Subjects in 1773. She also traveled to London to promote her work and George Washington met with her after reading as well.

Wheatley married John Peters, a free Black in 1778, and they had three children, all of whom died early in life. When the Wheatleys passed away, Phillis Wheatley fell into poverty and died before publishing her second volume of poems.


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