With the 1773 publication of Wheatley's book Poems on Various Subjects, she "became the most famous African on the face of the earth." Voltaire stated in a letter to a friend that Wheatley had proved that black people could write poetry. John Paul Jones asked a fellow officer to deliver some of his personal writings to "Phillis the African favorite of the Nine (muses) and Apollo." She was honored by many of America's founding fathers, including George Washington, who told her that "the style and manner [of your poetry] exhibit a striking proof of your great poetical Talents."
Critics consider her work fundamental to the genre of African American literature. She is honored as the first African American woman to publish a book and the first to make a living from her writing.
- In 2002, the scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Phillis Wheatley as one of his 100 Greatest African Americans.
- Wheatley is featured, along with Abigail Adams and Lucy Stone, in the Boston Women's Memorial, a 2003 sculpture on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts .
- In 2012, Robert Morris University named the new building for their School of Communications and Information Sciences after Phillis Wheatley.