Wheatley, John

Birth: 1703
Death: 1778-03-12 in Boston
Affiliation:

Constable of Boston

Faith:

Congregationalist

Nationality:

Anglo-American

Occupation:

tailor

Residence:

King Street, Boston, MA

Marital status:

Married to Susanna Wheatley on 25 December 1741; they had five children: John, Susanna and Sarah died prematurely; twins Mary and Nathaniel lived to adulthood.

Biography:

John Wheatley was a prominent Bostonian and owner of the slave, Phillis Wheatley, who became the first African-American woman to publish a book of poetry. Wheatley was a tailor with a wealthy clientele that included men like John Hancock. He was also a merchant and money-lender, and he became one of two constables of Boston in 1739. In 1761, Wheatley purchased a young girl from West Africa to serve as a servant for his wife Susanna. The Wheatleys supported the Revolutionary cause and had a large and influential circle of friends and acquaintances; many visiting Presbyterian and Anglican Methodist ministers stayed at their house. John Thornton, the English philanthropist and treasurer of the English Trust for Wheelock's Indian School, sent Wheatley donations for Indian missions in the colonies. Although Susanna was more actively involved in furthering Phillis's carreer as a prodigy and poet, John Wheatley put his name to the letter circulated in Boston and published in the newspapers attesting to the authenticity of Phillis's authorship of the poems (although some critics argue it was dictated by his son Nathaniel); this document is one of several that preface the edition of Phillis's "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral" published in London in 1773. Wheatley freed Phillis after she returned from England and she continued to live in his house while she nursed Susanna through her final illness.

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Sources:

Carretta, Vincent. Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage. University of Georgia Press, 2011.