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On the Death of a Child


Infant mortality rates in the late and 18th and early 19th centuries were high, and even higher for the offspring of Black women. Phillis Wheatley Peters’ Poems on Various Subjects included several poems dedicated to parents who’d lost young children. By the time she published this poem in a 1781 issue of the Arminian Magazine, she had married free Black grocer John Peters in 1778 and suffered the loss of her first child. Nevertheless, the poem shared similar themes of hope and faith despite grief, with her earlier poetry.