Smithsonian Acquires Wheatley Peters Collection/ Tupac Arrest Made – Poetry News Roundup October 2nd

We begin the week with a look at the acquisition of the Phillis Wheatley Peters collection by the Smithsonian and the arrest of a suspect for the 1996 murder of Tupac Shakur.

Phillis Wheatley Peters Collection Acquired by Smithsonian

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) at the Smithsonian has announced the acquisition of what is the largest, private collection, of items relating to Phillis Wheatley Peters, the poet who lived between 1753 and 1784. The collection includes a number of handwritten manuscripts.

The poet was born in West Africa and as a child captured by slave traders. She was the first African American to have a book of poetry published. “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” was published in London in 1773. The collection includes a four page ink written manuscript of the poem “Ocean” which it is believed was written during a voyage between England and America in 1773. This is the only copy of the poem that is known to exist and until 1998 it was unpublished.

There are only 30 objects in the collection and only six of them were published during the poet’s lifetime. There are plans to make the collection available to the public at some point in the future.

Wheatley’s poetry made her well known within abolitionist circles and it is widely believed that her poem “On Being Brought from Africa to America” which is considered to be something of a chastisement towards white Americans got to the conscience of Thomas Jefferson who dismissed Wheatley in his 1785 publication “Notes on the State of Virginia”.

The collection includes items that date from the late 18th century right up to the early 20th century and offer a real insight into Wheatly as a person, an icon and a woman. One of the poems in the collection is believed to be of significant importance as it was published under the poet’s married name, Phillis Peters, and not as Mrs John Peters which is unusual for the time.

Having spent most of her life enslaved and in service Wheatley was taught to read and write by her owners and began to write poetry at the age of 14. Her work was published and began to circulate in both America and Great Britain amongst the elite during the late 18th century.

Arrest Made Over Murder of Tupac Shakur

Police in Las Vegas have arrested and charged a man with the 1996 murder of the rapper and poet Tupac Shakur.

Aged just 25 when he died, Tupac was shot four times in a drive-by shooting. The long running case has gripped the public ever since, but police have not been able to find the killer.

The 60 year old who has been charged with the murder is believed to have planned the shooting following an altercation between his nephew and the rapper in a casino. At the time of the arrest the police confirmed that all the other direct conspirators in the murder are now dead, leaving Duane Davis, the South Side Compton Crips former leader as the sole suspect.

Whilst it has always been suspected that the killing was gang related it wasn’t until 2018 that new information came to light with has now led to this arrest.

In June 2023 a posthumous Hollywood Walk of Fame star was named for Tupac.

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