FMimage Check out the National Constitution Center's biographies of the Founding Fathers!

It's Founders Month here in Florida! According to the Florida Department of Education,

Section (s.) 683.1455, Florida Statutes (F.S.), designates the month of September as American FoundersMonth and s. 1003.421, F.S., recognizes the last full week of classes in September in public schools as Celebrate Freedom Week.

So what does this mean for our schools and kids and teachers? Basically, it's time to do some learning about the men and women who have helped shape this state and this country. Here on our Florida Citizens blog, we'll be doing at least two posts a week with a brief overview of a particular Founder, Framer, thinker, or shaper of this state or this nation and how they made an impact.


(This slide is available here: Wheatley FM)

Our first highlight this week is an incredible woman, one of the first great poets of what would become the United States. Phillis Wheatley was a slave, taken from Africa when she was just seven years old and enslaved by a prominent Boston family (a reminder that American slavery was not a uniquely Southern institution) who recognized her literary genius young and encouraged her poetry and writing, and she gained fame and support from significant figures in New England and in the British Isles. Freed at last when she was about 21, she continued to compose beautiful poetry, meditating on questions of life, death, liberty, family, and hope. One of the most important topics, near and dear to her, though, was America. As the Poetry Foundation tells us:

In addition to classical and neoclassical techniques, Wheatley applied biblical symbolism to evangelize and to comment on slavery. For instance, “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” the best-known Wheatley poem, chides the Great Awakening audience to remember that Africans must be included in the Christian stream: “Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, /May be refin’d and join th’ angelic train.” The remainder of Wheatley’s themes can be classified as celebrations of America. She was the first to applaud this nation as glorious “Columbia” and that in a letter to no less than the first president of the United States, George Washington, with whom she had corresponded and whom she was later privileged to meet. Her love of virgin America as well as her religious fervor is further suggested by the names of those colonial leaders who signed the attestation that appeared in some copies of Poems on Various Subjects to authenticate and support her work: Thomas Hutchinson, governor of Massachusetts; John Hancock; Andrew Oliver, lieutenant governor; James Bowdoin; and Reverend Mather Byles. Another fervent Wheatley supporter was Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Sadly, one of the greatest poets of the early United States died impoverished and alone. Her poetry, though, and through it the memory of her and her dreams of what the new nation COULD be, lives on. You can learn more about Phillis Wheatley from the Poetry Foundation and from the third activity in this excellent lesson plan provided by the National Park Service.

Our next post will discuss our first and perhaps greatest president, George Washington. Watch this space for more!

And don't forget to check out the resources provided by the Civics Renewal Network for more wonderful stuff for American Founders' Month!