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But Phillis Wheatley’s trials are not over, as Mr. Gates points out with a wry jab at the political correctness posses who patrol our cultural boundaries. “Too black to be taken seriously by white critics in the eighteenth century, Wheatley [is] now considered too white to interest black critics in the twentieth.” His response to such narrow nonsense is another reason to buy this book. Do so soon.

James Srodes‘ latest book is “Franklin: The Essential Founding Father.” His e-mail address is srodesnews@msn .com.