Thomas Jefferson felt compelled to denounce the poetry of Wheatley based on his belief that the white people were intellectually superior to the blacks’. He claimed that she had not written the poems herself, and they were of poor quality. Jefferson felt that Wheatley’s poetry was motivated by the search for sexual compassion and was suffering mere religious obsession, and not literary imagination.
He was additionally intimidated by her passion for talking about slavery and racism while ideally he was inherently racist and had slaves to himself. Furthermore, Wheatley was in her late teens and her establishment as a published poet immensely upset Jefferson. Since Wheatley’s works were to be “legitimized” by a group of white men, this criticism could have made her poems not penetrate into the public domain due to the strong message relayed (Gates, 2003).
Thomas Jefferson’s relation with Sally Hemings is seemingly intimate rather than that of master-slave. While Sally was the maid to Jefferson’s daughters, it was undeniable that he had sired children to her since no records excluded Jefferson’s paternity.
Gates, H. L. (2003). A critic at large: Phyllis Wheatley on trial. Retrieved from www.en.utexas.edu/Classes/Bremen/e316k/316kprivate/scans/gates.html
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