Exhibits in Special Collections – On Various Subjects: 250 Years of Phillis Wheatley

September 18, 2023

On Various Subjects: 250 Years of Phillis Wheatley was curated by UW-Madison professors Brigitte Fielder and Jonathan Senchyne in collaboration with the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture and the Department of Special Collections. Materials are drawn from the Department of Special Collections, CCBC, WHS, and Memorial Library, as well as the curators’ personal collections. This exhibit celebrates the semi-quincentennial of Poems on Various Subjects and traces how Wheatley’s poetry, image, and name have been reprinted, recirculated, and remixed by and for educators, activists, artists, and readers of all ages in every era over the last 250 years. Here, Wheatley’s 18th-century publications, highlighted by the first edition of Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral, are in conversation with the two-and-a-half centuries of Black art, thought, and action that she directly inspired. On Various Subjects: 250 Years of Phillis Wheatley invites you to witness how Wheatley’s legacy has been held out as an example of excellence among Black people (particularly girls and women), celebrated as an inspiration for artists and intellectuals, and presented as evidence in arguments against the degradations of slavery and racism.

Visit the Department of Special Collections for more on this wonderful exhibit.