Phillis Wheatley is among many blacks shaping America.  She was a poet.

Blacks shaping America is and has never been a phenomenon. It is only a rarity to those ignorant of American history. This article will discuss three (3) African Americans who established a place in history. They are Nat King Cole, Phillis Wheatley and Onesimus. The question this writer asks is, “Why did whites in America lie and hide the contributions of blacks?” One word: racism.

The power structure of America fostered the lie that the African slave lacked intelligence. He was incapable of thinking. So, every effort was made to prove the lie real. It was much like what Trump and many Republicans are saying today about the insurrection. They say: it was people practicing “legitimate political discourse.” We know that’s a lie …it was violence! However, for the African slave, the voice of dissent was very weak. Therefore, the lie ruled American culture.


Phillis Wheatley was born in 1773, sold into slavery at the age of seven. Arriving in North America, she was purchased by the Wheatley Family. In that household, she learned to read and write. This skill set revealed her talent as a poetry writer and later, she became the first African American published poet.

As a slave, she traveled to London with her master’s son and published Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. No publisher in Boston would publish her work. Many colonists could not conceive of a slave having the intelligence to write so brilliantly. Because of such ignorance, Wheatley had to defend her authorship in court. Most of her works did not revolve around slavery. Here is one of her poems that did focus on slavery:

A Poem of Slavery

Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic dye.”
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

Wheatley was emancipated by her masters after her published work. Later, she married John Peters and died in obscurity at the age of 31. Her legacy is a shining example of blacks revamping American culture.

Onesimus shaped America by introducing the process of inoculation to the country.  How is that for blacks shaping America?


As stated previously, the American culture viewed slaves as less intelligent than whites. Many compared their mentality to livestock and labeled them that way. However, in 1706, a Boston minister named Cotton Mather received a “gift”… a slave which he named Onesimus. Initially, he regarded the slave as somewhat intelligent, but later became suspicious . . . calling him “thievish.” But Onesimus proved his ability in becoming what we now know as “blacks shaping America.”

In 1721, Boston had an epidemic of smallpox which killed 850 of its 11,000 residents. Even though inoculation against diseases existed in Asia and Africa, the United States was not aware of the process. What was the process? Onesimus told his master that when pus from an infected individual’s (one with smallpox) pustules is inserted into the broken skin of an uninfected person, the person suffers a mild reaction, but becomes immune to future infections. Slave Master Mahler observed this to be true among other slaves and became convinced the process worked.

America Finds Inoculation

Once he convinced others to use inoculation in a similar manner, the death rate diminished from 1 in 10 to 1 in 6. Thus, the birth of inoculation against smallpox in America began. This, however, did not get Onesimus his freedom, he had to buy it from Mather by replacing himself with another slave before that occurred.


The phrase "Blacks Shaping America"  refers to Nat King Cole.  Pop music was his love and making people happy was what he did with his music.

The best way to introduce “The King” is with his own voice. “When I Fall in Love.”

Nat “King” Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles on March 17, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama. His parents moved to Chicago when he was only five. He played football in high school, but music was his love. His mother taught him piano at an early age. He was a singer, pianist and actor. Once in 1956 during a concert in Birmingham, Alabama, Cole was attacked by six (6) white supremacists. He suffered a back injury from the attack.

Nat King Cole had over 100 songs that became hits on the pop charts. He also received several gold awards. Among those were: Sweet Lorriane, Ramlin’ Rose, The Christmas Song and Mona Lisa.

Five (5) things to learn about Nat King Cole:

  • Married Maria Francis Hawkins and had 2 daughters, Caroline and Natalie.
  • Marriage was officiated by Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
  • Cole canceled his high-rated TV show because of lack of sponsors.
  • Performed at the John F. Kennedy Inauguration in 1961.
  • His wife’s family opposed his marriage to Maria because he was “too black.”

Contributions of black people to America, have existed since slavery. Not only have we helped “shape” the culture of America, but we also fought and died for its existence. But many blacks just wanted to be like Nat King Cole . . . who said: “All I want to do is sing and make people happy.”