Jupiter Hammon

If we don’t celebrate, we have nothing to fight for……………………

We have cemented our history in America in blood and contribution. How difficult the task of opening the door for a race to follow and grow from your actions. This life….. this life! Our lives, our burden as a people is to overcome the racial prejudice from most other races. Yet, we’re equipped with creativity and great resolve. It was once said the me that its not the STRONGEST, the FASTEST or the most AGGRESSIVE, but the one able to adapt to change whom is the real survivor!

Every African American owes Jupiter Hammon a debt of thanksgiving!

……In the earliest periods of our history in America. Jupiter Hammon proved capable of creative contribution in literary arts……

Jupiter Hammon was born October 17, 1711 and died in 1806. He was the first African American writer to be published in the United States. Hammon was a poet writer, a sermon writer for black Christian leaders as well as himself. A devout Christian, born into slavery in Lloyd Harbor, New York. His father and mother were slaves to the same estate. Yet, unlike most slaves, Jupiter’s father learned to read and write. His slave owners, unlike most slave masters encouraged their slaves to become educated. It was so different that Jupiter even attended school with the Lloyd children. Jupiter was not a field worker, but more of a domestic student. But, let me clear any misconception. Hammon was not what we in the black community call a “House Negro” because of his love for his race and their condition.

His first published work was a poem published in 1761 entitled “An Evening Thought, Salvation by Christ with Penitential Crienes”. It was published on Christmas day, December 25, 1761, due to its Christian nature. Eighteen years passed before Hammon was published again and it was more of a personal plea to a woman whom he respected, but thought she had lost her religious root way. This woman was Phillis Wheatley. Entitled “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley”. Because as he put it, “Miss Wheatley had succumbed to the pagan influences in her writing”. But Hammon was heavy into religion of Christianity and any deviation or any exploration in any other direction Hammon would have felt that way. The “address” consisted of twenty one rhyming versus each related to a bible verse to what he hoped would make Miss Wheatley remember and return to her Christian path. His next literary works was his response and way to participate in the Revolutionary War, with such group as the Spartan Project of African Society of New York City. At the first meeting, of the African Society he unveiled his most recent work that has become one of his most well-known works. On September 24, 1786 he orally presented it – Address to the Negros of the State of New York also known more widely as “Hammon Address”. It was straight forward set of Christian advice and reflections to his fellow slaves. He stressed strongly to all negroes to make every effort even at the risk of harm to learn to read, if all be it to study the bible to inspire ALL negroes to read in a written text and publicly verbally was uplifting. Hammon was 76 years old at the time and he was still not emancipated yet, enjoyed many luxuries of free men. He said in his address “If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being black or for being slaves”. He also said “While I personally had no wish to be free, he did wish others, especially the young negroes were free”.

You must understand the time in which Jupiter Hammon was born. In 1711, it wasn’t until his later years that the possibility of a black man’s freedom was even a collective thought. Combine his bond with his master Hammon, his never experienced hardships of most slaves, his freedom to travel at will, to write and speak without fear of reprisal led him to be comfortable without being emancipated.

More importantly was his light of accomplishments that were heavily displayed and used by the black race and organizations to show black pride and black accomplishment. It inspired Phillis Wheatly, Benjamin Bannker and others, to dream to be bigger and better. This was so important for a young, unprideful race. Many of his speeches and prints were used by New York Quakers, several abolitionist groups such as the Pennsylvania Society for promoting the abolition of slavery. Hammon’s speeches and poetries are often included in anthologies of notable African American and early American writing.

The determination to become great in the face unyielding racial pressure, we could never live with now is a testament to our races resolve. Some say we’ve not come far enough, but if you look where we were, it shows mental and physical improvement. But, when you can see the true of equality, it’s hard to settle for anything less.

A newly discovered poem by Hammon is now stored in the Manuscripts and Archives Library at Yale University. The poem dated 1768 is best described as a “shifting point”. It was Hammon’s world view of slavery.

Hammon is the literary foot print of a slave poet. The father of African American Poetry. His stance on slavery was to promote the gradual emancipation of slavery.

There is no record of Jupiter Hammon’s death. What we do know is he lived his entire life as a slave in servitude to John Nelson Lloyd, a great grandson of his original owner Henry. It is believed that Hammon died in 1806 and is buried on the Lloyd property in an unmarked grave.

African American writers before the Emancipation Proclamation stood alone. But, writing was one of African Americans’ outlets and one of the slave holders’ worst fears!

Earlier writers took their inspiration from the Father of the African American written word! He opened the door of communicating thru the written word expression. The next group to emerge was the written contribution of the “Abolitionist Movement” with such words as Frederick Douglass, Olaudah Equaino, W.E.B Dubois sued the written word to spread the message of HOPE!

Every African American writer owes Mr. Hammon his due respect. From my soul I write wit the past of the Father of African American writers. From Phillis Wheatly to Langston Hughes to me the pen and progress live.

-Simply KJS

Jupiter Hammon Hammons address