Phillis Wheatley’s Poem: Exploring Identity and Redemption in African American History

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In the reading of the poem, On Being Brought from Africa to America, it was published in 1768 in Boston, Massachusetts. The poem is a primary source created by Phillis Wheatley. Phillis Weatley was an African American slave brought from Africa to America with no rights but with a massive talent for the Comprehension of English. Being that Phillis Wheatley was a slave herself who was both black and female with large comprehension skills this sent a more powerful message for the African American culture.

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She created the poem, On Being Brought from Africa to America to show the unspoken praises in which they believed to be finally accomplished. She argued that even African Americans can be saved by the one in which they praised “God” and to find some Christian beliefs. Philis Wheatley reaches out mainly to the African American race trying to shape their perspectives allowing them to see the “Unchristian” like rules of these American whites and show them we all can be Christian and join to angelic train of redemption.

In the making of the poem the historical circumstances in the moving of slave trade were all so familiar. In Africa they would trade their people for products from the Americans. Americans saw these people as a different race from white American people and moved Africans from their home as Phillis Wheatley explained as the “pagan” land. Spacey explained, “[Phillis Wheatley] begins by declaring that it was a blessing, a free act of God’s compassion that brought her out of Africa, a pagan land. This appreciative attitude is humble acknowledgement of the virtues of a Christian country like America. Despite the hardships endured and the terrible injustices suffered there is a dignified approach to the situation (2017). Nevertheless, larger historical events such as slave beatings, hardship on slave trade boats, and their isolation from the whites influenced the poem of Phillis Wheatley. Nevertheless, the poem does not consist with what I knew doing this historical period in time. I was taught that slave trade was forced upon African Americans and that they never wanted to be moved to another country. Slavery was however not seen as slavery to the Africans being transported until they experienced the harsh treatments from their masters.

Next, I learned multiple facts from this source but the main ones that caught my attention were, Africans looked at their land as pagan, Africans were never Christian, and Africans wanted to be refined and apart of God’s world. Wheatley stated, “Their colour is a diabolic die. Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain, May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.” These lines say that even African American as black as they are can be redefined and join God in heaven after no practice of Christianity as he is their savior. However, when slaves were transported over to America cultural factors shaped this message as they saw they were used for labor force. Africans were treated unhuman like with lessons of Christians beliefs from their master. Their master taught them to obey their master, never steal from their master, and other scriptures that were not a part of the bible. In our time, beliefs and values differ as Christianity is seen differently, freedom of speech and religion, and slave trade is abolished. In America everyone is seen as free but acts such as back then start to stir back up as in America now immigrants are not allowed within the states. Now, questions such as, why did African American not feel compromised by their land, why did they want to be a part of Christianity, and why was it not practiced are left unanswered by the source and the perspective of the other African American race and whites as to why they did such cruel actions.

In conclusion, the research from this poem helped to answer the question as to why the Africans transported to America with no doubts and the feelings of redemption. But, this source contradicts the issues in other sources as Africans were seen as labor force unwillingly wanting to move to America and learn the practice of white Americans. Nevertheless, it does represent patterns with other primary sources confirming Africans wanted to be a part of God’s world and all ride the “Angelic Train” and be purified.

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Phillis Wheatley's Poem: Exploring Identity and Redemption in African American History. (2020, Mar 22). Retrieved from