I have forsworn visiting Boston since 2008. Details of those two trips are here and here
When I swooped in for CrimeBake in 2009 and 2010, I got off the train at Rte128 and never ventured out of the hotel. I was certain Boston had it in for me.
Today however I am back!
The reason I'm here, and the reason I may declare an end to my war with Boston is the Massachusetts Historical Society. If you're in the Boston area and you're not regularly attending their events, you're really missing out.
Tonight was a talk by Vincent Carretta on his new book PHILLIS WHEATLEY. Now, I'm sure you know Phillis Wheatley was an American poet working at the time of the American Revolution. You may remember she was the first person of African descent to be published in the Americas. You probably read some of her work in various anthologies in your American lit classes.
But did you know she was seven years old when she was taken from her home in Africa and sold in Boston? Did you know her name Phillis is that of the ship she arrived on, and her surname Wheatley is that of the family who owned her. I didn't.
That she was taught to read and write, that she was able to secure her freedom, those were all incredible feats in the 18th century. That she is a poet of amazing depth...well that's an incredible feat in every century.
And tonight, at no charge, the Massachusetts Historical Society sponsored a talk by the author of the first full biography of Phillis Wheatley, a book they also supported with grants. Of course I made the trip to attend.
The MHS is sponsoring several other talks about the craft of biography that I will also be attending. Check out their website for the details about the New England Biography Seminar
And while you're at it: check out PHILLIS WHEATLEY.
I need to read upp on these previous(mis)adventures in Boston, but Wheatley sounds like she kicked a lot of ass back in her time, considering what she had been through. Though it does go to show that when someone is given the opportunity to flourish, they'll spread those branches in all sorts of surprising directions. It's amazing enough that she secured her freedom, but to have overcome more obstacles considering the time as well as her gender and race is pretty insprising.
I was just reading about Wheatley. She wrote a poem about George Washington in 1775, when he was the brand-new commander in chief of the Continental Army. When he became aware of the poem (which was celebrated), he wrote a thoughtful, gracious letter of thanks. He was a major slaveholder, she was a slave.
From classes, I only knew a little bit about her, but now I'm amazed that no one talks about how she got her name. You'd think that would be a point of discussion. Thank you for writing this!
Steve, wow -- I did not know that, either. Very interesting!
Blast! Wish I read this yesterday. Didn't think we'd get you back to Boston. Will have to somehow chum the waters of Boston Harbor to convince you to return yet again.
Moved to Boston 10 years ago and yes, am aware of this amazing poet. There is a beautiful statue of her on the Commonwealth Ave. "Mall" which is the tree-lined walkway from the Public Garden down to Hereford St. Every time I walk by, I stop and look at her and marvel at her tremendous accomplishments.
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