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Headshot of actor and writer Paul Oakley Stovall.

History has played a starring role in the life of Chicago-based actor, singer, playwright, filmmaker, and activist Paul Oakley Stovall, from playing George Washington in the national tour of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical to working for the White House.

Now, Stovall is bringing to life the remarkable history of Phillis Wheatley in his newest work, the original play “Written by Phillis.” Wheatley was an enslaved woman who became the most famous woman of African descent in the world when she published Poems, on Various Subjects Religious and Moral in London in 1773, a signed copy of which is on display at the Museum. The play made its world premiere at Quintessence Theatre Group’s Sedgwick Theater in Mount Airy, Philadelphia, in May 2023.

In this episode of the Museum’s AmRev360 series hosted by President & CEO Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, Stovall discusses the serendipity that led to his various roles and projects, what it’s like to bring historical figures to life, and what he’s working on now. 

"Written by Phillis" is a world-premiere, original play that brings to life the remarkable history of Phillis Wheatley, enslaved American and beloved poet. After Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was published in London in 1773, she became "the most famous woman of African descent in the World," admired by Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and King George III, among countless others. Conceived and created as part of Quintessence's collaboration with Chicago's New Classics Collective — Paul Oakley Stovall (Artistic Director/Playwright), Marilyn Campbell-Lowe (Playwright), and Cheryl Lynn Bruce (Director) — this new biographical dramatization puts Wheatley's poetry front and center, reconsiders her important role in America's founding and ideals, and explores her obscure life and legacy, one that inspired an African-American literary tradition that has lasted over two and a half centuries.

Stovall played George Washington in the first national tour of "Hamilton: An American Musical" by Lin-Manuel Miranda and was a co-producer of the Tony Award-winning musical, "A Strange Loop." Outside of entertainment, Stovall served as an press advance associate for President Obama and subsequently served as a media logistics coordinator and advance staff lead for First Lady Michelle Obama. You can follow Stovall and his work on Instagram @tallpowerpaul.

AmRev360 features lively conversations on the American Revolution from all angles between Stephenson and a broad slate of dynamic guests, including authors, actors, community leaders, and more. Interested in more Museum videos, subscribe to our Youtube channel.

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AmRev360

Watch lively conversations on the American Revolution from all angles, hosted by Museum President & CEO Dr. R. Scott Stephenson and featuring a broad slate of dynamic guests, on our AmRev360 web series.
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Image 091120 Phillis Wheatley Poems Book Collection Phillis Wheatley Poems
Gift of Dr. Marion T. Lane 

Phillis Wheatley's Poetry

This original copy of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, published in 1773, was written by Phillis Wheatley, the first published African-American author.
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In the News: 1774 Newspaper Printing of Phillis Wheatley's Letter Rebuking Slavery

A searing rebuke of slavery and a soaring defense of human equality, a 1774 newspaper printing of a letter written by African American poet Phillis Wheatley is now part of the Museum's collection.
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