Seven-year-old Phillis Wheatley has been kidnapped from her native Senegal and brought to Boston. Sold to the wealthy Wheatley family, they recognise her academic and intellectural abilities - but others remain unconvinced.
Phillis prepares to face a group of influential American men to prove that she is the author of outstanding poetry. Many refused to acknowledge her talent, claiming that while slaves 'had souls from which they could articulate the misery in their lives, they lacked the reflective and intellectual attributes necessary to create brilliant literature'.
Phillis reflects on the freedom and fun of living in her native Senegal. In harrowing detail, she recalls the events of 1761 that led to her capture by slave traders and the appalling conditions on the ship. Recalling the moment she saw her sick mother thrown overboard, Phillis contemplates her future, lonely and isolated in a new land.
To mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain, Oscar-nominated actor Sophie Okonedo tells the remarkable yet little known story of the first published African American woman, a slave by the name of Phillis Wheatley.
4/4. Phillis arrives in London as the prospect of seeing her poetry published is realised. The first ever African American female poet fascinates and intrigues the English gentry who acknowledge her undoubted talents.
She returns to Boston a celebrated writer but despite her achievements and the fame that follows, Phillis reamins troubled by her way of life. All of the trappings of success do nothing to change the fact that she is still a slave.