The Age of Phillis
In 1773, a young, African American woman named Phillis Wheatley published a book of poetry that challenged Western prejudices about African and female intellectual capabilities. Based on fifteen years of archival research, The Age of Phillis, by award-winning writer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, imagines the life and times of Wheatley: her childhood in the Gambia, West Africa, her life with her white American owners, her friendship with Obour Tanner, and her marriage to the enigmatic John Peters. Woven throughout are poems about Wheatley’s “age”―the era that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade. For the first time in verse, Wheatley’s relationship to black people and their individual “mercies” is foregrounded, and here we see her as not simply a racial or literary symbol, but a human being who lived and loved while making her indelible mark on history.
Winner, 2021 NAACP Image Award for Literary Work: Poetry
Finalist, 2021 PEN/Voelcker Award in Poetry
Long-List, 2020 National Book Award in Poetry
Finalist, 2020 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry
NPR’s “Best Books of 2020”
Library Journal “Best Poetry of 2020”