Phillis Wheatley’s real name is lost to history. The young girl was named for the slave ship that carried her to the United States from West Africa. Enslaved for domestic labor in Boston, Phillis defied all the odds to become a prolific poet celebrated around the world and the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry in the United States. Eventually, she used her considerable talents to convince the people who owned her to return her freedom to her.
The story of Phillis’s complicated journey is followed by a conversation with world renowned poet Nikki Giovanni, who talks to Jo about the origins of African American poetry and the evolving narrative about Phillis Wheatley’s place in history.