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Phyllis Wheatley Rise to Read Campaign

September 17, 2021

The Phillis Wheatley Rise to Read Campaign is a deliberate, coordinated community initiative designed to bring a strategic laser community focus to the issue of African American literacy, said Dr. Goliath Davis.

GOLIATH J. DAVIS, III, PH.D., Contributor

ST. PETERSBURG — During the swirling controversy surrounding what I called “The Miracle at Lakewood Elementary,” I have been asked numerous times: Who is Phyllis Wheatley, and what is the Phyllis Wheatley Rise to Read Campaign? In no small way, the question is an indictment of the Pinellas School district’s failure to provide an adequate inclusive education for its scholars.

Phyllis Wheatley was a prominent Black poet, brought to American colonies at age 6-7 from the Senegal/Gambia region of West Africa and sold to the John Wheatley family in Boston. Within 16 months of her arrival, she could read the bible and the Greek and Latin classics. She was the best-known poet of the 19th century and the first published Black female in America.

The Phyllis Wheatley Rise to Read Campaign is an initiative named in honor of the distinguished scholar in recognition of her laudable accomplishments as a student and poet. A slave at age 6-7 from the African Continent reading Greek and Latin classics is not just inspirational but a testament to what is possible if the will, determination, commitment and focus are present.

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