Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

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Phillis Wheatley Character Analysis

Phillis Wheatley was an enslaved writer in the 1700s who became the first Black person to publish poetry in the United States. She was born in Africa, sold into slavery in the U.S., and bought by the Wheatley family, who educated her and encouraged her writing. Reynolds and Kendi cite her as one of the earliest “extraordinary Negroes”—she caused public controversy because white people didn’t think that Black people were intelligent enough to write poetry. She forced racists to come up with the theory that slavery made Black people into savages.

Phillis Wheatley Quotes in Stamped

The Stamped quotes below are all either spoken by Phillis Wheatley or refer to Phillis Wheatley. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers edition of Stamped published in 2020.
Chapter 28 Quotes

In the book, he claimed to be exempt from being an “extraordinary Negro,” but racist Americans of all colors would in 2004 begin hailing Barack Obama, with all his public intelligence, morality, speaking ability, and political success, as such. The “extraordinary Negro” hallmark had come a mighty long way from Phillis Wheatley to Barack Obama, who became the nation’s only African American in the US Senate in 2005. With Phillis Wheatley, racists despised the capable Black mind, but with Obama, they were turning their backs on history so that they could see him as a symbol of a post-racial America. An excuse to say the ugliness is over.

Related Characters: Jason Reynolds (speaker), Barack Obama, Phillis Wheatley
Related Symbols: “Extraordinary Negroes”
Page Number: 235-236
Explanation and Analysis:
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Phillis Wheatley Character Timeline in Stamped

The timeline below shows where the character Phillis Wheatley appears in Stamped. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5: Proof in the Poetry
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
How Racist Ideas Spread Theme Icon
Meanwhile, in Boston, the Wheatley family bought and educated a Black girl named Phillis, who started writing beautiful poetry. Her intelligence caused a scandal, because white people thought that... (full context)