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‘An Issue of Mercy’: Exploring the Life of Phillis Wheatley Peters Through Documents & Poetry

Thursday, November 4, 2021, 7pm

Virtual Middlebury
Passcode: 347204

In this online lecture, poet, essayist, and novelist Honorée Fanonne Jeffers will discuss the research and practice that led to her latest book of poetry, The Age of Phillis (2020). This collection is based upon fifteen years of research on the life and times of Phillis Wheatley Peters (1753-1784), a formerly enslaved person who was the first African American woman to publish a book. The Age of Phillis won the 2021 NAACP Image Award for Literary Work: Poetry, was long-listed for the 2020 National Book Award in Poetry, and was a finalist for both the 2021 PEN/Volcker Award and the 2021 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry; The Age of Phillis was chosen as the “common read” for the scholarly conference, Society of Early Americanists for the academic year of 2020-2021. 

For over twenty years, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers has been lifting her voice on issues of Black culture, racism, American history, and gender through the medium of writing. Her most recent collection, The Age of Phillis (2020) was long-listed for the National Book Award in Poetry and nominated for the 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry. She is also the author of The Gospel of Barbecue (2000); Outlandish Blues (2003); Red Clay Suite (2007); and The Glory Gets (2015). Jeffers is also a prose writer and author of the recent novel The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois (2021). She is the recipient of fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, the Witter Bynner Foundation through the Library of Congress, and the Tennessee Williams’ Scholarship in Fiction from the Sewanee Writers Conference. She was also the winner of the Emerging Fiction Fellowship from the Aspen Summer Words Conference and recently was honored with the 2018 Harper Lee Award for Literary Distinction, a lifetime achievement award. She is a Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma.

Phillis Wheatley, After Scipio Moorhead, published by Archibald Bell, 1773. Engraving. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1949, 49.40.24

Program in American Studies

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