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Grating the Nutmeg

A Connecticut Historian Makes History: Recovering Phyllis Wheatley's Lost Years


A Connecticut Historian Makes History: Recovering Phyllis Wheatley’s Lost Years

UCONN legal historian Cornelia Hughes Dayton was searching through Massachusetts Court cases from the 1700s, working on a project involving mental disabilities in early America, when she came upon a find that was itself history-making: a cache of court cases that illuminate the formerly “missing years” in the life of America’s first published African American author and the mother of the African-American literary tradition Phyllis Wheatley Peters. Dayton discusses her discovery of the court cases and their many revelations, as recounted in her just published and prize-winning article Lost Years Recovered: John Peters and Phillis Wheatley Peters in Middleton,” New England Quarterly 94 (September 2021): 309-351.

Watch for the release of primary source documents from the "Middleton dossier" on the the Wheatley Peters Project website (forthcoming). Track its progress at the Twitter account #Wheatley_Peters.