The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley: A Poet’s Journeys Through American Slavery and Independence with David Waldstreicher

On March 3rd at 3pm, help us welcome back David Waldstreicher, a historian of early and nineteenth-century America with particular interests in political history, cultural history, slavery and antislavery, and print culture. David has previously spoken at JHC – his talk was titled “Another View of the American Revolution – African Americans Hear the Call to Freedom.” The program is free but pre-registration is required. Click here to register. 

His latest book, The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley: A Poet’s Journeys Through American Slavery and Independence, is the most deeply researched biography of the poet. The New York Times, in a recent feature on the book and Waldstreicher, described his willingness to put Wheatley “smack in the middle of the raging debate over the relationship between the American Revolution and slavery,” and praised his achievement in not only “tracing her life” but “also recreat[ing] the18th-century intellectual world Wheatley actually lived in.” The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley has also received rave reviews from Oprah, which called it a “rich and necessary book,” and The New York Times Book Review, which said the book is “at once historical biography at its best, literary analysis at its sharpest and a subversive indictment of current political discourse questioning the relevance of Black life in our country’s history.”

David will discuss his work with Iain Haley Pollock, Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.

He is also the author of Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification (2009); Runaway America: Benjamin Franklin, Slavery and the American Revolution (2004); and In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776-1820 (1997). As editor, his books include Revolutions and Reconstructions: Black Politics in the Long Nineteenth Century (2020); the Library of America edition of The Diaries of John Quincy Adams (2017); Beyond the Founders; New Approaches to the Political History of the Early American Republic (2004); and The Struggle Against Slavery: A History in Documents (2001). His scholarly articles and books have won prizes from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, the, Southeastern American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and the American Jewish Historical Society. He has also written for the Boston Review, and the New York Times Book Review.

Waldstreicher is an elected member of the American Antiquarian Society and the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, New York Public Library; the American Philosophical Society; and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, among others.

Before coming to the Graduate Center, he taught at Temple University, University of Notre Dame, Yale University and Bennington College.

Iain Haley Pollock is the author of three poetry collections, Spit Back a Boy (2011), Ghost, Like a Place (Alice James, 2018), and the forthcoming All the Possible Bodies (Alice James, September 2025).  His poems have appeared in numerous other publications, ranging from American Poetry Review to The New York Times Magazine and The Progressive.  Pollock has received several honors for his work including the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, a 2023 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Poetry, the Bim Ramke Prize for Poetry from Denver Quarterly, and a nomination for an NAACP Image Award.  He is also editor of the literary journal Inkwell.