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  • CCB 2022 Gryphon Lecture: "Picturing Young, Gifted, and Black: Phillis Wheatley’s Image and the Creative Black Child"

    The now-familiar likeness of Phillis Wheatley that appeared as the frontispiece to her 1773 Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral is an image of, by, and for Black children. The iconic poet, born in the Senegambia region of West Africa, was kidnapped into slavery at the age of seven or eight. Her first published poem appeared when she was a teenager, and she was no more than twenty when her volume of poetry was published in London. Tracing how Wheatley has been pictured in early Black periodicals, educational materials, pageant plays, and contemporary children’s literature, we see how she has been imagined not only as a Black woman writer but specifically as a child creative—someone whose literary acumen was surprising to white adults because of the various intersectional positions of oppression she occupied. Reading these repetitions and reverberations of Wheatley’s image across time shows how picturing Wheatley became a practice for celebrating and fostering creativity among Black children.
    Gryphon Lecture 2022 Poster