The Age of Phillis

Longlist, National Book Awards 2020 for Poetry

ISBN 9780819579492
Wesleyan University Press
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is a poet whose work examines culture, religion, history, and family. She is the author of four other books of poetry, including The Glory Gets, and the recipient of the 2018 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry in conjunction with the Library of Congress. More about this author >

Award Years

Award Status

Award Categories

From the publisher:

In 1773, a young, African American woman named Phillis Wheatley published a book of poetry that challenged Western prejudices about African and female intellectual capabilities. Based on fifteen years of archival research, The Age of Phillis, by award-winning writer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, imagines the life and times of Wheatley: her childhood in the Gambia, West Africa, her life with her white American owners, her friendship with Obour Tanner, and her marriage to the enigmatic John Peters. Woven throughout are poems about Wheatley’s “age”―the era that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade. For the first time in verse, Wheatley’s relationship to black people and their individual “mercies” is foregrounded, and here we see her as not simply a racial or literary symbol, but a human being who lived and loved while making her indelible mark on history.

X