Wheatley at 250: Black Women Poets Re-Imagine the Verse of Phillis Wheatley Peters


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

Poet Danielle Legros Georges reflects on her recent book, Wheatley at 250: Black Women Poets Re-Imagine the Verse of Phillis Wheatley Peters (2023). Co-edited with Artress Bethany White, this new collection celebrates the 250th anniversary of Phillis Wheatley Peters’ Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) through the voices of twenty Black female poets. This reimagining of writing by America’s first published Black poet and iconic literary ancestor gives new perspectives for twenty-first century audiences.

Joining Legros Georges, three Worcester poets share their own poems that were inspired by archival materials written by and about Phillis Wheatley Peters and held in the American Antiquarian Society collections. During this hybrid program, moderated by Deborah Hall (elected October 2021), founder of the Worcester Black History Project, poets Serenity Jackson, Xaulanda Thorpe, and Ashley Wonder deliver their own responses to Wheatley Peters. Program attendees will have the opportunity to view primary source materials used by the poets for inspiration, including manuscript poems and original publications of Wheatley Peters’ poetry. 

This hybrid program will be held in person at Antiquarian Hall and livestreamed to a virtual audience on YouTube. Advance registration is required for both. Doors open at 6:30pm. 

Co-sponsored by the Worcester Black History Project

A special evening tour of the American Antiquarian Society is offered prior to the program, at 5:45 p.m.  Register here.


Danielle Legros Georges is a writer, translator, editor, and author of books of poetry including The Dear Remote Nearness of You, winner of the New England Poetry Club’s Sheila Margaret Motten Book Prize. She is Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at Lesley University, and taught in the Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences Writer’s Workshop, at the University of Massachusetts, Boston for more than a decade. Her work has been supported by fellowships and grants from institutions including the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Boston Foundation, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, the Pen/Heim Translation Fund, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and the American Antiquarian Society, where she held a Hearst Foundations Creative and Performers Artist and Writers Fellowship in 2023. Georges was appointed the second Poet Laureate of the City of Boston, serving in the role from 2015 to 2019. She is the author of the following books of poetry:  Island Heart, The Dear Remote Nearness of You, City of Notions,  Letters from Congo, Maroon.  Most recently, she is the editor with Artress Bethany White of Wheatley at 250: Black Women Poets Re-Imagine the Verse of Phillis Wheatley Peters (Pangyrus 2023).


Serenity Jackson, a student at Worcester Technical High School, is the 2024-2025 Youth Poet Laureate for the city of Worcester.  She performs original, hip hop rap songs and has presented her work at the Apollo Theater in New York City.  Her many awards include Best Hip/Hop Rap for two years in a row at the Worcester Music Awards.  Jackson is passionate about using her music and poetry to spread awareness, kindness, and positivity. 



Xaulanda Thorpe is a spoken word poet from Worcester, Massachusetts. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in biological anthropology in January 2020. During her time at BU, when she was not examining primate samples, she wrote short stories for Charcoal Magazine, a student-led publication. In 2021, Xaulanda’s poem was chosen for the African Burial Ground National Monument’s Still I Rise tribute to Maya Angelou.


Ashley Wonder has been writing and performing Spoken Word for over a decade with dynamic passion all over Massachusetts. She teaches workshops to various age groups hoping to inspire audiences around her to know that healing and liberation is possible.


Deborah Hall is Chief Executive Officer of YWCA Central MA. She is also the founder of Worcester Black History Project and a member of the Advisory Committee for the Worcester Cultural Plan. Hall has over thirty years of experience working with survivors of domestic violence and addressing the intersection of race, gender, and community violence. She is a social justice advocate, an art lover, and has served in leadership positions for several programs throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Missouri addressing issues of homelessness, violence, and substance abuse. Hall was elected to membership in the American Antiquarian Society in October 2021 and currently serves on the AAS Council.