25 Phillis Wheatley Quotes Celebrating An American (S)hero

Take a moment to honor the legacy of one of America’s greatest poets with our Phillis Wheatley quotes. 

One of the most incredible narratives ever told is Phillis Wheatley’s story.

She overcame immeasurable odds, and her lifetime helped change the world for the better. 

Find out more with our Phillis Wheatley quotes. 

Who was Phillis Wheatley?

Recognized as one of the most talented poets in American history, Phillis Wheatley continues to inspire generations.

As the first African woman published in America, she mastered a foreign language and worked her way to become a prominent poet at a time when it was illegal for Africans in America to know how to read. 

Phillis Wheatley led a tremendous life:

  • Slave traders stole her from modern-day Senegal/Gambia when she was only seven years old.
  • She survived the wretched Trans-Atlantic Slave route and made it to the Americas. 
  • Abolitionists highlighted her skills as an artist to convince  White America to end chattel slavery.  

A courageous little girl crosses the Atlantic 

European or American enslavers targeted skilled, intelligent, and healthy Africans.

However, when they were unable to kidnap their quota, they settled for the elderly, children, and even disabled people. 

Enslavers referred to small children, elderly people, or those too frail to work the rigorous and dangerous plantations as “refugee slaves.”

Because she was only a little girl when brutally stolen, imprisoned, and detained, Phillis fell into this category.

For months she survived the bottom of a boat across the Atlantic. 

Refugees who could not handle the brutal Caribbean or Southern plantation life were enslaved in New England.

The Wheatley family of New England purchased Phillis in 1761.

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From refugee to premier poet

The Wheatley family worked Phillis but also taught her how to read and write. 

In much of America, Africans were kept illiterate for fear that it might increase their chances of emancipation. 

Phillis read classic Greek literature as well as the works of John Milton, Alexander Pope, and Sir Isaac Newton.

Her poetry altered the minds and hearts of Americans who believed that Africans were less evolved beings.

She was tantamount to shifting American perceptions.

To learn more, check out our Phillis Wheatley quotes below. 

Short Phillis Wheatley quotes from On Recollection

We start with these short quotes from Wheatley’s poem On Recollection

1. “But how is Mneme dreaded by the race?”  — Phillis Wheatley, On Recollection

2. “By her unveil’d each horrid crime appears.” — Phillis Wheatley, On Recollection

3. “Her awful hand a cup of wormwood bears.” — Phillis Wheatley, On Recollection

4. “Days, years misspent, O what a hell of woe!” — Phillis Wheatley, On Recollection

5. “Who scorn her warnings and despise her grace?” — Phillis Wheatley, On Recollection

Famous Phillis Wheatley quotes from the poem To His Excellency George Washington

6. “The goddess comes, she moves divinely fair, olive and laurel binds her golden hair.” — Phillis Wheatley, To His Excellency George Washington 

7. “Celestial choir! enthron’d in realms of light, Columbia’s scenes of glorious toils I write.” — Phillis Wheatley, To His Excellency George Washington 

8. “See the bright beams of heaven’s revolving light involved in sorrows and the veil of night!” — Phillis Wheatley, To His Excellency George Washington 

9. “While freedom’s cause her anxious breast alarms, She flashes dreadful in refulgent arms.” — Phillis Wheatley, To His Excellency George Washington 

10. “See mother earth her offspring’s fate bemoan, And nations gaze at scenes before unknown!” — Phillis Wheatley, To His Excellency George Washington 

The best Phillis Wheatley quotes about the folly of racism

Wheatley understood the terrible implications of racism and how they shaped her world. 

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11. “Their color is a diabolic die.” — Phillis Wheatley, On Being Brought from Africa to America 

12. “Some view our sable race with scornful eye.” — Phillis Wheatley, On Being Brought from Africa to America

13. “I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate was snatch’d from Afric’s fancy’d happy seat.” — Phillis Wheatley, To The Right Honorable William

14. “Should you, my lord, while you peruse my song, wonder from whence my love of Freedom sprung?”  — Phillis Wheatley, To The Right Honorable William

15. “Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, may be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.” — Phillis Wheatley, On Being Brought from Africa to America 

Phillis Wheatley quotes and sayings about life and death

Wheatley was intelligent, driven, and creative.

Here are some of her musings about life and death.

16. “But, Madam, let your grief be laid aside.” — Phillis Wheatley, To a Gentleman and Lady 

17. “And let the fountain of your tears be dry’d.” — Phillis Wheatley, To a Gentleman and Lady

18. “Your sighs are wafted to the skies in vain.” — Phillis Wheatley, To a Gentleman and Lady

19. “While Death reigns tyrant o’er this mortal shore.” — Phillis Wheatley, To a Gentleman and Lady 

20. “Your pains they witness, but they can no more.” — Phillis Wheatley, To a Gentleman and Lady

The top quotes about Phillis Wheatley from brilliant thinkers

We end our list with these amazing quotes about the legacy of Phillis Wheatley. 

21. “But as a teenager, I discovered African American poetry. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first. Then Phillis Wheatley.” — Mary McLeod Bethune

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22. “When I read Jefferson’s disparagement of Wheatley, it felt like he had been disparaging the entire lineage of Black poets who would follow her, myself included, and I saw a man who had not had a clear understanding of what love is.” — Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

23. “Only those with extraordinary talents were able to break the shackles of bondage. Phyllis Wheatley is to be remembered as an outstanding example of this ability.” — Bettina Apthenker, Tapestries of Life

24. “It is not so much what she sang, as that she kept alive the notion of song.” — Alice Walker

25. “This kidnapped and enslaved Black woman wrote in the only materials available to her, in the only language in which she could write, and in the only cadence she knew as song.” — Alice Walker

Phillis Wheatley: An American (S)hero

Even though she was sold into slavery, Wheatley did not harbor bitterness.

As a result, she learned to make the most of her conditions to lead an extraordinary life.

She did not let the injustices of the world stop her from being her best. 

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