导航

Phillis Wheatley

所属教程:People in America 更新:01-05
00:00/00:00
点击单词,可查看发音和词义哦。

VOICE 1:

I'm Shirley Griffith.

VOICE 2:

And I'm Ray Freeman with the VOA Special English program, Peoplein America. Every week we tell about someone important in thehistory of the United States.

This week we tell about Phillis Wheatley, the first black femalepoet in the United States.

Graphic Image
Graphic Image

(Theme)

VOICE 1:

The girl who became known as Phillis Wheatley was born aboutseventeen-fifty-three in Senegal, Africa. She was kidnapped andbrought to the New England colonies in North America on a ship thatcarried slaves. The ship's name was Phillis.

The girl was between seven and eight years old. She was weak andsickly. So her price was not very high. She was sold in a slavemarket in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, in Augustseventeen-sixty-one. John Wheatley, an international businessman,bought her to serve his wife, Susannah.

VOICE 2:

Phillis came from a culture that was very different from that ofthe Wheatleys. She found the food, customs and beliefs to be new andstrange. The other slaves in the house taught her many things aboutAmerica.

Phillis quickly learned the rules of slavery. She learned thatslaves could not beat drums because slave owners feared that secretmessages were being passed to slaves on other farms. She learnedthat in Southern states it was a crime to teach a slave to read andwrite.

VOICE 1:

In Northern states in the seventeen-hundreds, black slaves weretreated better than they were in the Southern states. Restrictionsagainst the education of slaves were not as severe as they were inthe South. Many of the slaves in New England were even urged tolearn to read, especially the Bible, the major book of the Christianreligion. Many people thought that slaves should read the Bible sothey could become better believers of the Christian religion.

In New England, blacks were free to meet with each other ingroups. Many times male slaves were accepted as members of thecommunity for special projects. These included gatherings to cleancorn or to build a farm house. Female slaves cooked for the groups.

VOICE 2:

From her earliest days as a slave, Phillis was a happy, busyperson. She liked to keep busy. She especially liked to do thingswith her hands. She quickly learned how to clean around the Wheatleyhouse and how to do the dishes. But her mind seemed to move evenfaster than her hands. She wanted to do everything.

Phillis's new family had unusual beliefs for the times. JohnWheatley and his wife were educated people. Susannah Wheatleybelieved that all human beings, including African slaves, couldlearn if given the chance. She believed that all people, of any skincolor, should love and respect each other. She treated Phillis moreas a daughter than as a slave. Mr. Wheatley said, "You're my blackchild. You're my Phillis."

Susannah Wheatley soon recognized Phillis's intelligence anddesire to learn. Mr. Wheatley observed how Phillis loved books andthe care she took with them. At times, Phillis would smell the pagesof the books and hold them close to her.

VOICE 1:

One day, one of the slaves in the Wheatley home found Philliswriting on the wall of Mr. Wheatley's room with a piece of coal.Phillis had been cleaning the dust from a book. She decided to copythe letters from the cover of the book. The slave brought Mr.Wheatley to inspect the marks on the wall. But Susannah Wheatley didnot get angry. Instead, she smiled.

Mr. Wheatley gave Phillis a pencil and paper and a little tableon which to write. She showed the writing on the wall to herdaughter Mary. Mary was as surprised as her mother at how wellPhillis had copied the letters. Mary told Phillis she would teachher to write -- on paper, not on walls.

VOICE 2:

Mary Wheatley began to teach Phillis to read and write English.She also taught Phillis the Christian religion. Phillis learnedquickly. She learned the English alphabet in a few weeks. In a yearand one-half after she arrived in America, Phillis could readEnglish. And she could read and understand difficult parts of theBible.

Phillis loved to learn new words. She enjoyed the new feelingsthat went with the sounds. She especially liked writing and creatingnew ways of saying things.

VOICE 1:

Mary taught Phillis about writings from other countries. Americawas a young nation. It had not yet produced writers and poets likeolder nations.

So Phillis studied the writings of European writers. She read thework of the Greek poet Homer, the English poets Keats and Pope, andthe plays and poetry of Shakespeare. She read and re-read the Bible.

Phillis was about twelve years old when she began to writepoetry. One of her earliest poems was about her religious faith. Itquestioned how a person could not believe in God:

"Thou who dost daily feel his hand, and rod

Darest thou deny the essence of a God!

If ther's no heav'n, ah! Whither wilt thou go. ... "

VOICE 2:

Phillis Wheatley's first major work was "An Elegiac Poem on theDeath of the Celebrated Divine." It was published inseventeen-seventy. Phillis wrote the long poem to honor a famousclergyman who had died.

Phillis wrote mostly about religion and morals. Many of her poemswere created at the request of someone to honor a family member whohad died. Her poems are representative of the times. They expressedcommon reactions to personal events such as deaths or marriages. Orthey honored public events such as battles.

VOICE 1:

Phillis had an unusual life for a slave. Mr. Wheatley had stoppedhaving Phillis do house cleaning jobs. She made sure Phillis hadtime to study and to visit the family friends. But Phillis was notpermitted to make friends with other uneducated slaves. So sheremained separate from both white and black worlds. While she wasconsidered above the other black slaves, she was never considered anequal of white slave owners.

One time she was invited to dinner in the home of one of Mr.Wheatley's relations. The servants said that it was the first timethey ever carried food to a woman with skin their color. But Phillisusually sat at a table separate from the white people at a dinnerparty.

VOICE 2:

Phillis Wheatley became famous in Europe as well as in America.She travelled to London in seventeen-seventy-three and gave poetryreadings there. She was twenty years old. The writings of the youngslave from Africa surprised everyone.

During her visit in London, she was to have been presented toKing George the third. But she received urgent news from America.Mr. Wheatley was very sick and had asked that Phillis return toBoston. Phillis returned home quickly.

That meant she missed the publication in London of her book poemson various subjects, religious and moral. It contained thirty-eightof her poems. It was the first published book written by a blackperson in America. And it was only the second book written by anAmerican woman.

Newspapers in London highly praised her poems. Her book sold verywell there and later in America.

VOICE 1:

Phillis Wheatley had one more brief period of being famous. Inseventeen-seventy-five, she wrote a poem about George Washington. Hehad become commander of the Colonial forces in the Americanrevolution. The poem was called "His Excellency General Washington."It called Washington "first in peace and honors." She sent her poemto him.

Some time later, she was invited to visit George Washington inhis headquarters. It was an unusual visit between a black woman poetand a military commander.

VOICE 2:

Phillis took care of Susannah during her long final sickness.When Mr. Wheatley died in March, seventeen-seventy-four, Philliswrote that she had lost a friend and parent.

After Susannah's death, Phillis was freed by the Wheatley family.But her life became more difficult.

She married John Peters, a free black man. He failed in manybusiness attempts. Their three children died at a very young age.

Phillis tried to publish another book of her poems. But now thatshe was free, she had lost her appeal as a slave poet. PhillisWheatley died poor and alone in seventeen-eighty-four. She wasthirty-one years old.

(Theme)

VOICE 2:

This Special English program was written by Vivian Bournazian. Itwas produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Ray Freeman.

VOICE 1:

And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for anotherPeople in America program on the Voice of America.

受欢迎的教程

下载听力课堂手机客户端
随时随地练听力!(可离线学英语)