Title: Phillis Sings Out Freedom: The Story of George Washington and Phillis Wheatley
Author: Ann Malaspina
Illustrator: Susan Keeter
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Concepts: social justice, discrimination, slavery, human resources
Review: Sold for just a few casks of rum to slavetraders, Phillis Wheatley was taken from her African homeland to a slave market in Boston, where she ended up working as a servant for a well-to-do family. The mother of the white family defied prevailing beliefs and customs at the time and taught Phillis to read and write, not just in English but also in Latin. Within just a few years Phillis was well-versed in a number of subjects and had demonstrated an extraordinary talent for poetry.
Due to severe discrimination at the time, no printer would publish Phillis's poetry until a group of prominent Bostonian men verified that she had indeed written the poems. Her book and subsequent writings helped Phillis to gain her freedom, and her poetry also served as a source of inspiration for General George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Striking oil paintings and informative text help younger readers to become more familiar with Phillis Wheatley's literary contributions and the challenges she faced as a slave in Colonial America in publishing her work. Told in parallel is a brief narrative of how George Washington organized his ragtag army of militiamen. Although this literary device may have been intended to show how George Washington was inspired by Wheatley's poetry, Wheatley's story is interesting enough to hold on its own as a powerful example of an influential African American author in Colonial times who wrote about freedom and social justice.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children