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This program was produced by Debbie Rowe for national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation. From the struggle for freedom in the 18th century to the struggle for freedom in the 20th Negro Americans have helped make American history. These are a few of the travellers along that Glory Road. The stories of Negro Americans who have shared in the building of our nation. Today. Phillis Wheatley. Boston Harbor June 1760 England and its colonies were still friends. There were no heavy taxes and no rumblings yet. British ships brought sugar and tea and took away lumber. But the dark grey ship in Boston Harbor this day brought a different cargo. The good people of Boston
looked in hard at this ship and were disgusted by the voice that cut through the fog. The voice of the auctioneer at the slight block in the square. And a cumbersome three my dear. I think it's terrible to sell him so young. Oh you know what it might be. One wonders why do you know why she joined. And we were. Right you know.
Oh Mr. Wheatley please. Why of course we have John. And so this frail African became the property of the weeklies. But from the first day she was more a member of the family than a slave the Wheatley twins Nat and Mary named her Phyllis. They offered her their friendship and a chance to learn in a day when men doubted the ability of a negro to do anything but work. I think my compositions are good. Please read it to me. Today I waited for the sun to rise. The flowers too were waving their heads in the trees the birds sat still. They hushed this song. Then the sun burst into the garden the flowers smiled.
The birds sang and I sang to her we are all children of the sun. Isn't that beautiful mother. Yes it is very lovely. Now Dylan run along how Mrs. Ashton set the table. Yep they're banking there. Mary you have taught Phyllis not only to think well but to read and write. But dear I wonder perhaps you should stop the lessons now. But my mother she so quick to learn she has a lot of good ideas and I told her to write them down. Yes dear but I do think you should not continue to teach her any more. I'm sure the Reverend Samuel Mather would be most alarmed if he knew. Oh Mother come now she has as much right to learn if we do what brother Nat is even going to teach her American Latin. But there she is. Well she has her work to do and and she is an African.
For her a sensitive responded with gratitude and poetry. Any happening could result in a point from Phyllis someone's a dad away in 1765. King George made a law that ordered a special stamp. But as the colonists refused to use the stamp the next year he had to end the law. In respect for King George doing this. Made by all the nations who live with Heavens choices great directing him and from his every life. And with equal kens his greed.
Phyllis's heart sang and she put the song into words and she wrote many poems. Mary felt these poems should be shared with others. So she took them to a publisher to have them made into a book. When the publisher heard they were written by a negro he refused to read them gabbing that a Negro could have written them to prove that Phyllis did write the poems. Mary arranged for an examination by some important men in Boston. Now that it is yes Governor Hutchinson needed first 9:0 Mr. Pope's essay on criticism of it. First follow nature and your judgment framed by her just splendid. Now that certainly doesn't sound like a savage does Robin matter. It's easy enough to code lines govern Acheson but I still say her brain is not capable of writing poems right here.
Did you write these poems I had before me to read it. Yes Governor Hutchinson. They're my poems most likely she copied them from a book. I still say she could not write a poem herself. Well let's consider this. Tell us how you came to write these poems fillers. I began by writing little messages of hope to people when they were happy or sad. Then when I read the poems of Mr. Paul I liked them so much that I thought I might try to send my messages as porn. And after that I just put my thoughts on paper and it's still hard to believe these poems are written by this this slave to Reverend math there. That is what we are deciding. Oh yeah you have John Han got an hour. It's a pity you could not get here sooner say you've missed a good time. Pardon my lateness. May I please ask Miss Phyllis to say one of her poems for me. Yes Phyllis do recites for us should you
avoid while you peruse myself wonder from whence my love of freedom sprung when lo these wishes for the common good by feeling heart alone. Beth understood my young life by seeming cruel fate was snatched from Africa fancied Happy Feet. What pains excruciating must more life. What sorrows labor in my parents breast such such was my case. And can I then but pray. Others may never be able to run IX way. Yes a year we have as we deciding to declare that these poems are written by jealous young negro girl and I say they are the poems of a good American.
Still the list of names declared that Phyllis had written her poems. But no one was interested in publishing poems and 1773 men were getting ready to fight for freedom for the whole land. Phyllis herself became free more easily. Mr Wheatley had papers drawn up which testified to this her good life continued and she wrote more and more poetry. She set up warm to England to comfort one of Mary's friends on the death of her husband. This point introduced Phyllis to the Countess of Huntington who invited her to her English castle with her passage arranged by the Wheatley fella sailed to England where she easily took her place in the glitter of the society. Dad was the lord mayor she is charming she replied. Poems for you.
Excellent. Here she comes. The Lord Mayor and I were just praising your poem. Thank you for your time. How could you not arrange Heavy duty to prove to you my dear we do it and I have other plans. I have your lovely poem published. Because of the illness of Mrs. Wheatley Phyllis did not remain in England long enough to be presented to the Queen but her poems were published. With one precious book of poems proudly in her arms. The Loyal fearless sailed back to her family and to America. In December 1773 men dump British tea into Boston Harbor and hurried Americans into the revolutionary war that began in 1775.
Phyllis's heart cried out for Americans and especially for George Washington in a prime which she delivered to his camp across the river from Boston. Oh what do you want. I think General Washington sir is not here. I am his assistant and I will take a message for him. I have no message. I have a poem a poem. Amazing. I recognize you now you're the black poetess. Who are you Sara. My name is Tom Paine. I should give your poem to General Washington. May may I beat it to chorus. Who knows perhaps one day I shall publish this poem. Well I'd be most honored sir but I wrote it to my General Washington know that we Americans believe in him. Before the war was over more than a team was missing in Boston. The British troops took everything they could. They burned the buildings and churches for
firewood. John Wheatley old and tired could not endure what he saw happening and he lost the will to live. After his death. The lawyers came to settle his I'm sorry but I must tell you Miss Mary that your father died very much in debt. I didn't know. Yes I'm afraid so. Now this girl tell us I believe she is part of his property. I don't understand. Do you fellas know very well as she's a slave. He must be for all the help that I'm still a fly not a play she is a free woman. You have papers to prove that Miss Phillips you will not believe me. Yes certainly of course I do but will need the papers in order to prove she's afraid Miss Mary. Are there papers about me before you went to England. You were given your freedom by lot so father must have had some papers but I never saw them. Could they saw me now as a flyer. Why of course not. You are one of
me. We will find the papers but until then I promise you Phyllis you will never be felt. Thank you Miss Mary. Ever since that day so long ago when your mother brought me home. I felt you were my family. Each day has brought me such joy which I tried to put into my poems. Perhaps in a small way I have shown my my gratitude for my home with all my wonderful life in America. Through the efforts of Mary Phyllis remained free Phillis Wheatley was the first American negro woman to have a book published. Perhaps her life was more significant than her poems. She lived in difficult times. She saw America struggling to become a nation but she had faith in this new land and its people.
The glory road
Phillis Wheatley
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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This program focuses on poet Phillis Wheatley.
The stories of African-Americans who have helped make the United States what it is today.
Race and Ethnicity
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Actor: King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
Actor: Russell, Pee Wee
Director: Russell, Steve
Producer: Russell, Steve
Writer: Lederer, Chloe.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-9-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:08
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Chicago: “The glory road; Phillis Wheatley,” 1966-01-18, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 26, 2021,
MLA: “The glory road; Phillis Wheatley.” 1966-01-18. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 26, 2021. <>.
APA: The glory road; Phillis Wheatley. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from