“Phillis Wheatley is a much too little-known figure, but at last she has found the right biographer. Those who have admired the clear, informed and judicious light that Vincent Carretta has already shed on the life and work of Olaudah Equiano will find the same qualities in this book. His deep knowledge of both shores of the eighteenth-century Atlantic make him the perfect person to bring alive this remarkable woman and the world of bondage and wary freedom in which she lived.”—Adam Hochschild, author of Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves
"An extraordinary achievement. Carretta's ground-breaking research and sensitive readings greatly enrich our understanding of Wheatley's life and work."—John Wood Sweet, author of Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American North, 1730-1830
"Phillis Wheatley for a generation has been a vehicle for ideological warfare. Was this first internationally recognized African-American poet a race traitor or the spiritual foremother of anti-materialism, post-racial amity, and gracious community? In the heat of the argument Phillis Wheatley herself melted into near insignificance. Vincent Carretta’s biography brings the person—her life—career—literary context—marriage—illness—religious life—death—back into startling view. With his characteristic depth of new research and scrupulously even-handed assessment of evidence, Carretta makes us understand the milestones of her transit from slavery to freedom, from a local curiosity to an international celebrity. We see for the first time her earliest attempts at verse. We finally grasp the drama and negotiation surrounding her return to America from the virtual freedom of post-Mansfield decision England. We understand the dynamics of the transatlantic abolition movement and its support of her efforts. We encounter her husband John Peters as a complex entrepreneurial man, not a one-dimensional exploiter and cad. We grasp why the advertised second volume of poems—one of the great lost books of American literature—never came to press. In short, we come to know Phillis and her world in a way we were never able to before."—David S. Shields, McClintock Professor, University of South Carolina
Vincent Carretta is a professor of English at the University of Maryland. He is the author or editor of more than ten books, including scholarly editions of the writings of Olaudah Equiano, Phillis Wheatley, Ignatius Sancho, and Ottobah Cugoano. His most recent books are Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man, winner of the Annibel Jenkins Prize, and The Life and Letters of Philip Quaque, the First African Anglican Missionary, coedited with Ty M. Reese (both Georgia).