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7/19/2012 - Meet Phillis Wheatley at the County Library

Meet Phillis Wheatley at the Cumberland County Library

On Saturday, August 11, the Cumberland County Library in Bridgeton, NJ will host a free public presentation, “A Visit with Phillis Wheatley”. Scholar and actor Dr. Daisy Century of The American Historical Theatre will portray Phillis Wheatley in an hour long performance including time for questions and answers from the audience. This free presentation begins at 2 p.m. in the library’s Meeting Room, in the lower level of the library.

The first published African-American poet and the first African-American female published writer, Phillis Wheatley’s life began in West Africa. Taken from her home on a slave ship when she was only 7, she was bought by the affluent and well-connected Wheatley family of Boston. The young girl looked so pitiful and so sickly and was “uncommonly intelligent,” so Mrs. Wheatley educated Phillis and had her work inside the house. She was further separated from other slaves because the Wheatleys didn’t let her associate with them. Phillis Wheatley was between two worlds, belonging to neither. This was made even more apparent when Phillis was not named in Mr. Wheatley’s will.  Yet, through the Wheatleys she had met Benjamin Franklin, attended balls, written and published poetry. One poem, dedicated to George Washington, elicited a note from Washington who said he’d visit if he came to Boston. When Washington was in Boston, he sent soldiers to get her and was surprised to discover the poet was a black woman. And he might have been surprised to learn that although Ms. Wheatley was smart and educated and talented, with connections and published works, Phillis died at 31 in poverty in a boarding house with little heat. He would probably not be surprised that her words live on.

The world would be less beautiful, less inspired, without Phillis Wheatley. Dr. Daisy Century, also a published author, portrays this talented poet with respect and flair. Dr. Daisy Century recalls the thrill of receiving a standing ovation for her 3rd grade recitation of The Creation and credits this as the beginning of her desire to perform. Trained as a teacher, Dr. Century earned a BA in Biology at Claflin College, a Master’s in Science Education from South Carolina University and a PhD from Temple University, also in Science Education. This naturally talented teacher and actor couples scientific methods with creative imagination in order to discover how the historical characters she interprets would respond to a given situation. An inspiring educator whose students have returned year after year to thank Dr. Century for the difference she has made in their lives, Daisy has continued to inspire through her thoroughly-researched, dramatically intense portrayals. Dr. Century is a published author, writing under the name Emily Nelson, and is an accomplished singer. Daisy has appeared in venues that include the National Defense Organization, Belmont Mansion, National Archives, Sojourner Truth House, Theodore Roosevelt National Historic Site, the Helicoptor Museum, and numerous schools, libraries, museums and historic sites throughout New Jersey.

Funding has been made possible in part by the New Jersey Historical Commission /Department of State and the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders through the Cumberland County Cultural and Heritage Commission.

Cumberland County Library is located at 800 East Commerce Street in Bridgeton, NJ, 08302. For more information, call (856) 453-2210, ext. 103.