Wiggins Lecture: “In Search of Phillis Wheatley”

We are pleased to announce the start of our signature bicentennial Fall Public Programs! The programs this fall include an impressive array of scholars and artists who will share new perspectives on key moments and fascinating people in American history.

We will be kicking off the series on September 28 at 7 p.m., when Vincent Carretta, professor of English at the University of Maryland and a specialist in eighteenth-century transatlantic historical and literary studies, delivers the twenty-ninth annual James Russell Wiggins Lecture in the Program in the History of the Book in American Culture.

Manuscript poem, "On the Death of the rev’d Dr. Sewall" (dated 1769). This is an elegy to her pastor, Joseph Sewall (1688-1769).

In this lecture called “In Search of Phillis Wheatley,” Carretta will share the story behind researching and writing the first full-length biography of Phillis Wheatley. After stepping off a slave ship in Boston Harbor at the age of 7, she rose to international fame while still a slave after the publication of her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral in 1773. Despite this early success, she died in poverty and obscurity, leaving little behind for biographers to piece together the extraordinary life of the first English-speaking person of African descent to publish a book and the second woman of any descent to publish a book in America. Now, almost 250 years after Wheatley arrived in America, Carretta has been able to solve some of the mysteries surrounding Wheatley’s life and piece together a more complete narrative of her involvement in the publication and distribution of her work, her rise to fame, and her post-emancipation life.

Please join us for the first public lecture of our fall series! All lectures are free and open to the public. To see what other lectures are coming this fall, visit our website.

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