Phillis Wheatley, Negro servant to Mr. John Wheatley, of Boston." Born in present-day Gambia around 1753, little is known of Wheatley's early life. When 7 or 8 years old, she was kidnapped and shipped from the Gambia to Boston; her purchasers named her Phillis after the ship that brought her to Massachusetts. Living in their household as a servant, she was permitted to learn to read, and not long after began writing poetry; her first published poem appeared in 1767. She left no account of her life in Africa or the middle passage, and her life ended sadly in Boston in 1784. Her portrait was done when she was about 20 years old.