Tuesday, September 21, 2021
5:15pm – 7:15pm
Online Event Registration

Phillis Wheatley was an African-born poet who, from the age of seven, was enslaved in late eighteenth-century Boston. The genius of her poetry led to acclaim both in northern British colonies and in England. She published her first book of poetry in London on a tour there to meet leading British abolitionists. Following her Boston return, she obtained her freedom and, in 1778, married John Peters, a free African-descended Boston trader. Her whereabouts and life following her marriage have been unknown to scholars since her 1784 death was reported in the Boston newspapers.

Now, from unexpected Essex County Massachusetts archives, Professor Cornelia Dayton of the University of Connecticut has uncovered the young couple’s attempt to settle on land in the rural town of Middleton, local hostilities towards them, the legal battles they eventually lost and their return to Boston.

Professor Dayton has published her findings in the Fall 2021 issue of the New England Quarterly. In a Massachusetts Historical Society free event, she and a panel of Wheatley scholars will discuss the implications of these new findings, the future research pathways they suggest, and investigative methods that expand our awareness of Black lives in the late eighteenth-century northeast. Researchers of local slavery and enslaved people will find this story of searching through local archives of particular interest. This is an online event and registration is available here.

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