On Being Brought from Africa to America

By Phillis Wheatley Peters

Edited by Jack Lynch

From Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (London and Boston, 1773).

’Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted° soul to understand benighted = in the dark
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable° race with scornful eye, sable = black
“Their colour is a diabolic° die.” diabolic = devilish
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.° train = procession


my Pagan land
Peters was born in West Africa. At the age of seven or eight she was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Boston in 1761. At the time Massachusetts was a British colony.
black as Cain
In the book of Genesis, Cain, child of Adam and Eve, killed his brother Abel. As punishment, God placed a “mark” on Cain. Many argued that this mark was dark skin.