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African American Women Writers

Phillis Wheatley (later Peters), poet, was the first African American to publish a book, and is regarded by many as the founder of an African American canon of literature. In his Foreword to the Schomburg edition of her poems, the critic Henry Louis Gates writes that 'the birth of the Afro-American tradition occurred in 1773 when Phillis Wheatley published a book of poetry.' According to him, Wheatley 'launched' single-handedly both the African American literary tradition and the black women's literary tradition, since before her Poems on Various Subjects came out in 1773 no black person had published an imaginative work in English; indeed, no other black person was to do so until 1829. Since the 'progenitor of the black literary tradition' is a woman, writes Gates, all black authors may claim a matrilinear line of descent. This is perhaps an exaggerated claim, but it is one that acknowledges the importance of Wheatley for generations of subsequent writers.

More about Phillis Wheatley at ProQuest One Literature

By Phillis Wheatley

About Phillis Wheatley