Poems on Various Subjects

The acclaimed collection by the first published African American female poet

Published in 1773, Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects caused a sensation in Great Britain and its American colonies. Voltaire sang her praises and George Washington invited her to visit him. An extraordinary education provided by the Boston family of her owner, John Wheatley, allowed Phillis to work from a deep knowledge of Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Milton, and Pope. Overcoming doubts about her works' authorship, she became a celebrity at age eighteen and the first published African American female poet in history.

In this beautiful digital facsimile of the first edition of Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Ronald William Bailey offers fresh insights for students wanting to understand Wheatley's work and fame, as well as her place in history and literature. In addition to Bailey's introduction, the digital edition includes a high-quality facsimile, a searchable transcript, and a virtual visit to the vault with a rare book curator.

Like all volumes in the Women in Print series, Poems on Various Subjects is provided as an open access book and downloads to a wide variety of platforms and online e-readers.


Phillis Wheatley was born in West Africa around 1753 and brought to Boston as a slave in 1761. Though emancipated in 1778, Wheatley fell into poverty, and her second volume of poems remained unpublished. She died in 1784. Ronald William Bailey is a professor of African American studies at the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His books include Introduction to Afro-American Studies: A Peoples College Primer (with Abdul Alkalimat), Remembering Medgar Evers--for a New Generation, and Lower Roxbury: A Community of Treasures in the City of Boston.

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