Poet's Pick April 2
Phillis Wheatley: "On Being Brought from Africa to America"
Selected by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
National Poetry Month 2017

Letter from the Editors

Dear Readers,

Our thanks to Honorée Fanonne Jeffers for today's Poet's Pick!

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Thank you so much for your support! Enjoy today's special poem and commentary from 2003!

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Don Selby & Diane Boller

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers's Poetry Month Pick, April 2, 2017

"On Being Brought from Africa to America"
by Phillis Wheatley (1753 - 1784)

'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 die."
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.


* Honorée Fanonne Jeffers Comments:
Many African-Americans have found this early, short poem by Wheatley to lack anger, since she appears to be thanking her enslavers taking her away from her ancestral mother, Africa. However, I have loved this little poem since I first read it as a teenager because it is the volta, the twist in the middle, which questions the true nature of religion and the actions of her "Christian" enslavers, and which reveals dear Phillis to be an activist of the first order despite her quiet tone.

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers:
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers's first book, The Gospel of Barbecue (Kent State University Press, 2000) won the Stan and Tom Wick Prize for Poetry. Her latest book is The Glory Gets (Wesleyan University Press, 2015). She teaches at the University of Oklahoma.

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