Phillis Wheatley Peters in Material Memory

Phillis Wheatley Peters

American Antiquarian Society
185 Salisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

2023 marks the 250th publication anniversary of Phillis Wheatley Peters’ Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Throughout this anniversary year, The Genius of Phillis Wheatley Peters: A Poet and Her Legacies, a project directed by the University of Georgia and Texas Christian University, honors the occasion as a milestone in both literary and historical terms generating countless cultural legacies.

During this virtual program, Barbara McCaskill and Sarah Ruffing Robbins, co-directors of the Phillis Wheatley Peters Project, will investigate the material memory of Wheatley Peters’ authorship by spotlighting items held in the collections of the American Antiquarian Society. Attendees will also have the opportunity to view collection material live while AAS curators Ashley Cataldo and Elizabeth Watts Pope share commentary on each item and examine Wheatley Peters in connection with social movements such as anti-slavery activism and American nation-building.


Barbara McCaskill is Professor of English at the University of Georgia and Associate Academic Director, Willson Center for Humanities and Arts. Her most recent books are Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory (UGA Press, 2016) and The Magnificent Reverend Peter Thomas Stanford, Transatlantic Activist and Race Man (UGA Press, 2020), with Sidonia Serafini. She has co-edited with Caroline Gebhard African American Literature in Transition, 1880-1900 for the Cambridge University Press series. She is co-P.I. of “Culture and Community at the Penn Center National Historic Landmark District,” a multiyear collaboration funded by the Mellon Foundation.


Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is a poet, writer, and essayist. She is the author of five books of poetry, most recently The Age of Phillis (2020) and The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois (2021). The Age of Phillis was long-listed for the 2020 National Book Award in Poetry. Jeffers has received fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation through the Library of Congress, among others, and she has received two lifetime achievement notations, including induction into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame. Jeffers is professor of English at University of Oklahoma.


Sarah Ruffing Robbins is Lorraine Sherley Professor of Literature at TCU. Coordinator of numerous grant-funded public humanities initiatives, she has published ten academic books, over four dozen peer-reviewed essays, and a range of writings for general readers in print and digital formats. Sarah began her academic career as a secondary schoolteacher and continues to collaborate with K-12 educators in participatory humanities initiatives, including the National Writing Project’s NEH-funded Building a More Perfect Union project that has supported dozens of local humanities programs around the country. Previous books deeply informed by research at the AAS include Sarah’s Choice-award-winning Managing Literacy, Mothering America (2004; 2006) and her Learning Legacies: Archive to Action through Women’s Cross-Cultural Teaching (2017).