The author of the prize wining and best selling historical novel “A Song of Africa,” Ronald Wheatley turns his attention to the tumultuous days on the eve of the American Revolution in a courtroom drama that brings to life Boston slave poet Phillis Wheatley on trial before eighteen of the most eminent men of the Town. Her “crime,” the God-given gift enabling her to compose poetry capable of touching the soul – words so brilliantly crafted that her work would be compared to England’s Poet Laureate, Alexander Pope. Surely no mere slave could have written the finest poetry produced in the colonies. The outcome will determine not only Philiis’ fate but also a course of a young nation.
This play had its world premier at Bridgwater State University a decade ago as part of the University’s celebration of “Black History Month.”
“Classic American history theater for readers who are weary of The Crucible and Inherit the Wind.” Kirkus Review. Winner Kirkus Review Best Book of the year 2015.
On the eve of the American Revolution in the fall of 1772, eighteen year old Phillis Wheatley, the household slave of John and Susanna Wheatley was invited to appear before eighteen of Boston’s most prominent men in the Governor’s Council Chamber in Boston to defend the premise that she was the author of a collection of poems. The so-called “jury” was comprised of the most prominent men in Boston. This was not a jury of her peers but rather one comprised of all white, all male, and largely middle-aged men. There is no transcript of that proceeding. The Trial of Phillis Wheatley is a courtroom docudrama “depicting” what occurred in that room that day. The final verdict would change the course of American history.