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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 Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. How is slavery something that both saved and imprisoned the narrator of this poem? 
  2. How does Wheatley use form in this poem to earn credibility in the poetry world, but also as a method to deliver her argument against slavery and for racial equality? Would the message of the poem change if it were written in free verse? 
  3. Since most slaves couldn't read, who is this poem written for? 
  4. How does Wheatley use literal and metaphorical ideas of transition (from Africa to America, slavery to freedom, paganism to Christianity) to express her feelings about the importance of change in American society? 
  5. How does the poet use images of darkness on both a figurative and a literal level to embody conflicting ideas of racism, beauty, and spiritual emptiness? 
  6. What effect does the use of the biblical character Cain have on the poem? How does the character known for murdering his brother and being cast out of his homeland relate to Wheatley's message of equality and redemption?

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