The Phillis Wheatley Monument

The Phillis Wheatley Monument (Boston, Massachussets)

The first African-American poet and first African-American woman to publish a book in the United States.

The Phillis Wheatley monument is a part of the Boston’s Women’s Memorial. This memorial was established to honor important contributors to Boston’s rich and vibrant history. The sculpture is located between Fairfield Street and Gloucester Street on Commonwealth Avenue. Phillis Wheatley was chosen to be in this memorial because of her progressive ideas, commitment to social change and the impact of her legacy and writings. Her statue represents youth and imagination and is a fitting tribute to the first person of African descent to be publish a book of poetry in America and the third woman to do so in the American colonies. The book was entitled, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral”.

The statue is made out of bronze and granite and measures 59″ x 50″ x 32″. It was designed by sculptor Meredith Bergmann and installed and dedicated on October 25, 2003. Phillis Wheatley’s look was created from the only surviving image of the deceased poet. Meredith Bergmann used a new vision when it came to designing the Boston Women’s Memorial. Phillis Wheatley and the other subjects were not made in a “larger than life” manner. They are actually small enough for the public to intimately interact with them and instead of standing on a pedestal these sculptures are shown using them and displayed in poses that reflect the use and importance of language in their life.

On the monument you will find several inscriptions including a brief biography and her poem Imagination which reads as follows:

Imagination! who can sing thy force?
Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?
Soaring through air to find the bright abode,
Th’ empyreal palace of the thund’ring God,
We on thy pinions can surpass the wind,
And leave the rolling universe behind:
From star to star the mental optics rove,
Measure the skies, and range the realms above.
There in one view we grasp the mighty whole,
Or with new worlds amaze th’ unbounded soul.

Below is a slide show containing images of the Phillis Wheatley Monument, the Boston Women’s Memorial and a video that contains an informative guided tour of the Boston Women’s Memorial that I’m sure you will enjoy!

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  • joe

    What a lovely delightful video on those truly three heroines. My special fondness goes to Philis Wheatly. Odd that she should still be regarded as an imitator of British tropes and the heroic couplet of Alexander Pope. She was going beyond, far above what could be expected by a black lady, a great creative impulse curtailed by her rough times before the birth of the nation.