Revolutionary women: Phillis Wheatley

This is a two-day lesson that compares two women in the Revolutionary war era. Instead of focusing on individuals who fought in the Revolutionary war, this lesson focuses on people that were important and made an impact in the Revolutionary era. The first day, will focus on Phillis Wheatley. The second day will focus on Mercy Otis Warren. This lesson plan only includes day one. This lesson can also be integrated with Reading since students will be reading a play about Phillis Wheatley and finding the theme of the play in a future reading lesson.

Lesson Objective

Students will be able to analyze views, lives, and contributions of Phillis Wheatley of the Revolutionary period by examining primary resources related to her and completing an exit card stating why she was important.



  1. Group students into groups of 4 or 5 students
  2. Hand out an image of Phillis Wheatley along with the guiding questions. You will have to white out the information around the photograph. Students will have about 8 minutes to analyze and do a close reading of the image of Phyllis Wheatley and answer the guiding questions. With remaining time, students can write their own questions and discuss them.
  3. Discuss the responses with the students.
  4. Show students the same Phillis Wheatley image with the words uncovered. Continue to discuss this “new” information and how it confirms or refutes their close reading.
  5. Hand out Phillis Wheatley packet. The first page is a biography. Read the biography aloud with the students. Discuss this information further and connect it to the image.
  6. Have students view more primary sources. They will be looking at poems from Phyllis’ book.
  7. Have students look at Phillis’ “Letter to Occum.” Have them do a close reading of the document. Provide assistance with difficult vocabulary words. Connect this letter about anti-slavery to what injustices are happening in Boston at this time.
  8. Analyze Phillis’ poem, “From Africa to America.” Have students connect how this poem relates to her life.
  9. Summative discussion (reflection): Review the point of the lesson. “What were some of Phillis’ accomplishments? Why is she an important person in history?”
  10. Have the students complete the exit card on a note card and turn it in.
  11. Reading integration: unit 3, plays: Early finishers will read a play about Phillis Wheatley. This play will be used in a future reading lesson about finding the theme in a play.


Exit card question (on notecard)- Why is Phillis Wheatley an important figure in history? Use evidence from today’s lesson in your response.


“People and Events: Phillis Wheatley.” PBS: Africans in America. (accessed August 28, 2011).

Marin, Lucian. “A Poem by Phillis Wheatley.” Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities, blog entry posted April 2, 2009. [accessed August 28, 2011]. Original images from Yale University: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.

Edwards, Ben. “Black History Month: A Tribute to Phillis Wheatley”, TeachHistory, blog entry posted February 9, 2010. (accessed August 28, 2011).

“Illustrations for Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects.” PBS: Africans in America. (accessed August 28, 2011).

“Phillis Wheatley: America’s First Black Woman Poet.” Archiving Early America. (accessed August 28, 2011).

“Letter to Reverend Samson Occum.” PBS: Africans in America. (accessed August 28, 2011).

Paul Reuben, “Chapter 2: Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784).” PAL: Perspectives in American Literature. A Research and Reference Guide. (accessed August 28, 2011).