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Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects

Her art reflects her strength of character

When Phillis Wheatley (1753–84) published Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral in 1773, she became a household name. As a young girl, she was kidnapped in Senegal, sold into slavery, shipped to Boston, and purchased in 1761 by the Wheatley family.  Dependent on the family who ensalved her for support and access to publishers, she felt reluctant to write directly about slavery. Instead, she used her skills as a poet to subtly weave a vision of freedom through her works.

Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral

Object Details

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National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Slavery and Freedom Objects
Slavery and Freedom
On View
NMAAHC (1400 Constitution Ave NW), National Mall Location, Concourse 3, C3 053
Object number
A first edition of the book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, by Phillis Wheatley, while she was enslaved to Mr. John Wheatley of Boston. The book has a brown leather cover, the original morocco spine label, and a frontispiece featuring a portrait of Wheatley by Scipio Morehead. Along the top of the portrait are the words [PHILLIS WHEATLEY, NEGRO SERVANT TO MR. JOHN WHEATLEY OF BOSTON]. The book also has the armorial bookplate of Daniel P. Griswold, a small circular ticket from the Library of George W. Brinely, as well as a larger one from Henry Weston Sackett.
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Written by
Phillis Wheatley, American, 1753 - 1784
Illustrated by
Scipio Moorhead, ca. 1750 - unknown
Published by
Archibald Bell, British
African American
U.S. History, Colonial period, 1600-1775
Place printed
London, England, Europe
Place depicted
Boston, Massachusetts, United States, North and Central America
ink on paper with leather and wood
7 x 4 3/4 x 5/8 in. (17.8 x 12.1 x 1.6 cm)
Data Source
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Restrictions & Rights
Public domain
Record ID

Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral

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