Wheatley, Nathaniel

Birth: 1743 in Boston
Death: 1783-09-06

Clerk of the Market, Boston







  • Boston
Marital status

Married Mary Enderby in 1773; they had a daughter Elizabeth in 1776.


Nathaniel, with his twin Mary (1743-1778), were the only surviving children of John and Susanna Wheatley, wealthy Bostonians and prominent figures in New Light evangelical circles. In 1761, John Wheatley purchased a slave girl as servant for his wife, whom they named Phillis and made part of their family. Nathaniel and Mary helped tutor Phillis, who became a noted prodigy and poet of the time and is the first African-American woman to be published. By 1764, Nathaniel was managing his father's business interests. In 1770, he became one of 12 Clerks of the Market, which regulated Boston's commerce. Critics suspect that he is the author of the Letter of authenticity, signed by John Wheatley and circulated in Boston that prefaces Phillis's "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral" published in London in 1773. That year, Nathaniel accompanied Phillis on her voyage to London to seek support for her poetry; he stayed behind to marry Mary Enderby, the daughter of one of his English business associates. The couple was among many Bostonians who fled the town to avoid the British occupation in 1775, settling in Providence, RI. Travelling back and forth to England, Wheatley was captured by a British warship in December 1777. He died in Boston in 1783.


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