On Being Brought From Africa to America

“On Being Brought From Africa to America” is a poem by Phillis Wheatley, published in her 1773 book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Wheatley is known for becoming the first African American woman to publish a book.
Grade Level
Phillis Wheatley

Wheatley P
'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 refined and join the angelic train.
This text is in the public domain.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    What is Wheatley referring to when she writes of her “Pagan land”?
    Her native Africa
  2. Question
    What does this poem tell the reader about Phillis Wheatley’s religious identity and beliefs?
    She converted to Christianity upon coming “from Africa to America.” She believes she has been redeemed and that her Christian faith does not discriminate against “Negroes.”
  3. Question
    In what way does Wheatley use Christianity to make a statement against racism?
    Speaking to people who hold racist views, she says, “Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,/ May be refined and join the angelic train.” In this way, she emphasizes the Christian message of equality.
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