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In 1773, a young, African American woman named Phillis Wheatley published a book of poetry that challenged Western prejudices about African and female intellectual capabilities. Based on fifteen years of archival research, The Age of Phillis, by award-winning writer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, imagines the life and times of Wheatley: her childhood in the Gambia, West Africa, her life with her white American owners, her friendship with Obour Tanner, and her marriage to the enigmatic John Peters. Woven throughout are poems about Wheatley's "age"—the era that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade. For the first time in verse, Wheatley's relationship to black people and their individual "mercies" is foregrounded, and here we see her as not simply a racial or literary symbol, but a human being who lived and loved while making her indelible mark on history.

mothering #1
Yaay, Someplace in the Gambia, c. 1753

after
the after-birth
is delivered
the mother stops
holding her breath
the mid-wife gives
what came before
her just-washed pain
her insanity pain
an undeserved pain
a God-given pain
oh oh oh pain
drum-talking pain
witnessing pain
Allah
a mother offers
You this gift
prays You find
it acceptable
her living pain
her creature pain
her pretty-little-baby
pain

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication
  2. pp. i-viii
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. ix-xiv
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  1. Prologue: Mother/Muse
  2. pp. 1-2
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  1. An Issue of Mercy #1
  2. pp. 3-4
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  1. Book: Before
  2. pp. 5-6
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  1. The Smelting of Iron in West Africa
  2. p. 7
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  1. Mothering #1
  2. p. 8
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  1. Fathering #1
  2. p. 9
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  1. Dafa Rafet
  2. p. 10
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  1. First-Time Prayer
  2. p. 11
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  1. Before the Taking of Goonay
  2. p. 12
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  1. Fracture
  2. p. 13
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  1. Baay’s Moan with Chorus
  2. p. 14
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  1. Entreaty: Yaay
  2. p. 15
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  1. An Issue of Mercy #2
  2. p. 16
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  1. Found Poem: Detention #1
  2. pp. 17-20
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  1. Book: Passage
  2. pp. 21-22
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  1. Blues: Odysseus
  2. p. 23
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  1. Point of No Return
  2. p. 24
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  1. The Transatlantic Progress of Sugar in the Eighteenth Century
  2. p. 25
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  1. Illustration: “Stowage of the British Slave Ship Brookes Under the Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788”
  2. p. 26
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  1. Catalog: Water
  2. pp. 29-36
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  1. Found Poem: Detention #2
  2. pp. 37-38
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  1. Book: After
  2. pp. 39-40
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  1. Mothering #2
  2. pp. 41-42
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  1. Fathering #2
  2. p. 43
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  1. Desk of Mary Wheatley, Where She Might Have Taught the Child (Re)named Phillis to Read
  2. pp. 44-45
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  1. Lost Letter #1: Phillis Wheatley, Boston, to Susannah Wheatley, Boston
  2. p. 46
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  1. Phillis Wheatley Peruses Volumes of the Classics Belonging to Her Neighbor, the Reverend Mather Byles
  2. pp. 47-48
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  1. Lost Letter #2: Phillis Wheatley, Boston, to Samson Occom, London
  2. p. 49
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  1. Lost Letter #3: Samson Occom, London, to Phillis Wheatley, Boston
  2. p. 50
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  1. Susannah Wheatley Tends to Phillis in Her Asthmatic Suffering
  2. pp. 51-52
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  1. The Mistress Attempts to Instruct Her Slave in the Writing of a Poem
  2. p. 53
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  1. Lost Letter #4: Samson Occom, Mohegan, to Susannah Wheatley, Boston
  2. p. 54
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  1. Lost Letter #5: Susannah Wheatley, Boston, to Samson Occom, Mohegan
  2. pp. 55-56
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  1. Lost Letter #6: Phillis Wheatley, Boston, to Mary Wheatley Lathrop, Boston
  2. p. 57
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  1. The Age of Phillis
  2. p. 58
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  1. Book: Enlightenment
  2. pp. 59-60
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  1. The African-German Philosopher Anton Wilhelm Amo Returns to His Home Region in West Africa to Become a Sage and (Possibly) a Goldsmith
  2. pp. 61-62
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  1. Illustration: Petrus Camper’s Measurement of the Skull of a Negro Male
  2. pp. 63-64
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  1. The Beautiful and the Sublime
  2. p. 65
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  1. Three Cases Decided by William Murray
  2. pp. 68-70
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  1. Found Poem: Racism
  2. pp. 71-72
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  1. Book: Awakening
  2. pp. 73-74
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  1. Still Life with God #1
  2. p. 75
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  1. Phillis Wheatley is Baptized at Old South Church
  2. p. 76
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  1. Lost Letter #7: Phillis Wheatley, Boston, to Obour Tanner, Newport
  2. p. 77
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  1. Lost Letter #8: Obour Tanner, Newport, to Phillis Wheatley, Boston
  2. p. 78
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  1. Thomas Wooldridge Demands that Phillis Wheatley Instantly Compose a Poem in Honor of His Friend, William, the Right Honorable Earl of Dartmouth
  2. p. 79
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  1. How Phillis Wheatley Might Have Obtained the Approval of Eighteen Prominent White Men of Boston to Publish Her Book of Poetry
  2. pp. 80-82
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  1. Lost Letter #9: Phillis Wheatley, Boston, to Obour Tanner, Newport
  2. p. 83
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  1. Susannah and Phillis Wheatley Arrive at the Home of Ruth Barrell Andrews for a Discussion and Recitation of Poems with Various White Ladies of Boston
  2. pp. 84-86
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  1. Muses: Convening
  2. pp. 87-88
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  1. Blues: Yemoja
  2. pp. 89-91
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  1. Chorus of the Mothers-Griotte
  2. p. 92
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  1. Isabell
  2. p. 93
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  1. Definitions of Hagar Blackmore
  2. p. 94
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  1. The Replevin of Elizabeth Freeman (Also Known as Mum Bett)
  2. p. 95
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  1. The Journey of Ona Judge, Enslaved Servant of Martha Washington, Wife of President George Washington
  2. pp. 96-98
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  1. Book: Voyage
  2. pp. 101-102
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  1. Phillis Wheatley Embarks from Boston on Her Sea Voyage to London
  2. pp. 103-104
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  1. Lost Letter #10: Mary Wheatley Lathrop, Boston, to Phillis Wheatley, London
  2. p. 105
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  1. Phillis Wheatley Walks beside Her Master’s Son, Nathaniel, on the Streets of London
  2. p. 106
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  1. Ravenous Wolves in the Tower of London
  2. pp. 107-108
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  1. Illustration: A Mungo Macaroni / A Black Englishman of Sartorial Splendor
  2. p. 109
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  1. Lost Letter #11: Phillis Wheatley, London, to Obour Tanner, Newport
  2. pp. 110-111
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  1. Lost Letter #12: Phillis Wheatley, London, to Susannah Wheatley, Boston
  2. p. 112
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  1. Lost Letter #13: Nathaniel Wheatley, London, to Susannah Wheatley, Boston
  2. p. 113
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  1. Found Poem: Proof
  2. pp. 114-116
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  1. Book: Love
  2. pp. 117-118
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  1. Lost Letter #14: John Peters, Boston, to Phillis Wheatley, Boston
  2. p. 119
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  1. Lost Letter #15: Phillis Wheatley, Boston, to John Peters, Boston
  2. p. 120
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  1. Lost Letter #16: Susannah Wheatley, Boston, to Phillis Wheatley, Boston
  2. p. 121
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  1. Lost Letter #17: Samson Occom, Mohegan, to Phillis Wheatley, Boston
  2. pp. 122-123
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  1. Lost Letter #18: John Thornton, London, to Phillis Wheatley, Boston
  2. p. 124
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  1. Free Negro Courtship #1
  2. p. 125
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  1. Fragment #1: First Draft of an Extant Letter, Phillis Wheatley, Boston, to John Thornton, London
  2. p. 126
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  1. Free Negro Courtship #2
  2. pp. 127-128
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  1. Lost Letter #19: Phillis Wheatley, Providence, to John Peters, Boston
  2. p. 129
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  1. Lost Letter #20: John Peters, Boston, to Phillis Wheatley, Providence
  2. p. 130
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  1. Catalog: Revolution
  2. pp. 131-132
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  1. (Original) Black Lives Matter: Irony
  2. p. 133
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  1. Blues: Harpsichord, or, Boston Massacre
  2. p. 134
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  1. Lemuel Haynes, a Future Minister, a Formerly Indentured Servant, and Son of an Englishwoman and an African, Joins the Minutemen of His Town
  2. p. 136
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  1. Fragment #2: First Draft of an Extant Letter, Abigail Adams, Boston, to John Adams, Philadelphia
  2. p. 137
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  1. Salem Poor Fights at the Battle of Bunker Hill
  2. p. 138
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  1. Fragment #3: First Draft of an Extant Letter, Phillis Wheatley, Providence, to General George Washington, Cambridge Headquarters
  2. p. 139
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  1. Lord Dunmore Decides to Offer Freedom to Slaves to Fight in Support of His Majesty, King George III
  2. p. 140
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  1. General George Washington Allows the Enlistment of Free (though Not Enslaved) Negroes in the Continental Army
  2. p. 141
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  1. General George Washington Rereads a Poem and Letter He Received from Phillis Wheatley, and Agonizes Over His Response
  2. p. 142
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  1. Smallpox Decimates the Ranks of Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment, Camped on Land and Sea by the Colony of Virginia
  2. p. 143
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  1. An Issue of Mercy #3
  2. p. 144
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  1. Harry Washington, a Negro Runaway Formerly Belonging to George Washington, Sails on L’Abondence, Bound for Port Roseway, Nova Scotia
  2. p. 145
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  1. The Death of Former President George Washington
  2. p. 146
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  1. Revolution: Black Sortie, Black Redoublé
  2. pp. 147-148
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  1. Book: Liberty
  2. pp. 149-150
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  1. Lost Letter #21: Phillis Wheatley, Boston, to Obour Tanner, Newport
  2. p. 151
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  1. Still Life with God #2
  2. p. 152
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  1. Lost Letter #22: Obour Tanner, Newport, to Phillis Wheatley, Boston
  2. p. 153
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  1. Phillis Peters Prepares a Proposal to Publish a Second Book
  2. p. 155
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  1. Blues: In the Small Room Where He Lives with His Wife
  2. pp. 156-157
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  1. Lost Letter #23: From Phillis Peters, Boston, to Obour Tanner, Newport
  2. p. 159
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  1. Lost Letter #24: Phillis Peters, Boston, to John Peters, Boston-Gaol
  2. p. 160
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  1. Lost Letter #25: John Peters, Boston-Gaol, to Phillis Peters, Boston
  2. pp. 161-162
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  1. Epilogue: Daughter/Muse
  2. pp. 163-164
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  1. Homegoing, or, the Crossing Over of Goonay, Lately Known as Phillis Peters
  2. pp. 165-166
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  1. Looking for Miss Phillis
  2. pp. 167-190
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. 191-194
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  1. Notes on the Poems
  2. pp. 195-204
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  1. Bibliography
  2. pp. 205-214
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  1. About the Author
  2. pp. 215-218
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Additional Information

ISBN
9780819579515
Related ISBN
9780819579492
MARC Record
OCLC
1127068866
Pages
232
Launched on MUSE
2020-03-16
Language
English
Open Access
No
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