On this day we celebrate the birth, 265 years ago, of Phillis Wheatley, known as the first African-American woman ever to be published. Born in West Africa and sold into slavery as a young girl, she was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, who encouraged her literary talent after teaching her to read and write (she was reading Greek and Latin by age 12). The 1773 publication of her “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” earned her both fame in England and the American colonies, and her freedom. Founding Fathers like George Washington and Thomas Paine praised her writing, yet she died in poverty at the age of 31. READ some quotes… (1753)
In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance.
Through thickest gloom look back, immortal shade, On that confusion which thy death has made. Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, /May be refin’d and join th’ angelic train.
I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate
Was snatch’d from Afric’s fancy’d happy seat:
What pangs excruciating must molest,
What sorrows labour in my parent’s breast?
MORE Good News on This Day:
- The film studio Paramount Pictures (The Godfather, Titanic, Indiana Jones, and Shrek) was founded (1912)
- Happy 92nd Birthday to Sir David Attenborough, the legendary naturalist, broadcaster, and documentary host-producer who created the influential documentaries Life on Earth and The Life of Birds, among many others. (1926)
- A jubilant world celebrated V-E Day – Victory in Europe Day – proclaimed when the Allies in World War II finally defeated Nazi Germany [recognized as “a day of liberation” from their extremist government for Germans] (1945)
- Mohandas Gandhi began a 21-day fast in protest of British oppression in India (1933)
- The Beatles album Let It Be was released (1970)
- The first ascent of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen was achieved by Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler (1978)
Though he played mostly on street corners and in juke joints, and had little commercial success in his lifetime, the dirt-poor bluesman became a major influence for Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Eric Clapton (who covered ‘Crossroads’), and The Rolling Stones (who covered ‘Love In Vain’). Johnson took the intense terrors and tortuous lifestyle that came with being an African-American in the South during the Great Depression, and transformed the experience into music of universal relevance. Johnson’s poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend, including the myth that he sold his soul to the devil at a local crossroads of Mississippi highways to achieve success.
The landmark recordings of his 29 songs in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that was groundbreaking, and so good that it was reissued in 1961, on the LP King of the Delta Blues Singers, which helped give the music a global reach. Johnson is now recognized as a master of the genre, with Eric Clapton calling him, “the most important blues singer that ever lived.” (See biographical books and recordings on Amazon.com) LISTEN to his most famous recording… (1911)