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On Being Brought from Africa to America

On Being Brought from Africa to America


by Phillis Wheatley

On Being Brought from Africa to America Theme of Prejudice

The title "On Being Brought from Africa to America" sounds like a pleasant experience, right? At least, it sounds like it'd be exciting. But the speaker in this poem was brought over as a slave and into a racist culture. Although the speaker doesn't focus primarily on racism in the poem, she directly addresses prejudice against blacks in America and how faith in God can overcome that prejudice.

Questions About Prejudice

  1. How does Wheatley use her faith in God as an argument against prejudice? 
  2. What figurative language does Wheatley use to portray prejudice against black people? In other words, what images or words do she use and how do they tie into the theme of conversion and change from Africa to America? 
  3. Why do you think Wheatley waits until the second half of the poem to mention prejudice against black people? Why not start out with that? If her poem is an argument, what are the benefits of mentioning racism toward the end rather than the beginning?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Through figurative imagery of darkness and racism, Wheatley makes a powerful statement against prejudice toward blacks in American society. Fight the power!

Although she's not preaching into a mic like the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., our speaker uses logic, personal experience, and poetic form to make a cool, collected argument for equality in America.

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