21st Century: Query 176 (Phillis Wheatley)
Phillis Wheatley, the first published African-American poet, is often criticized for not exploring the institution of slavery more, perhaps because of conflicting feelings about it. In the poem below, critics claim that she praises slavery because it brought her to Christianity:
Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic dye.”
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
Other critics might read the poem as a covert jab at slavery.
Who is correct and why?
Why might Wheatley be reluctant to attack slavery in an overt manner?
Based on her use of language and poetic structure, how important is religion and God to her?