Jupiter Hammon, A Poetic Pioneer

Jupiter Hammon was a black poet and the first published black writer in America. He was born a slave on October 17, 1711. He was owned by four generations of the Lloyd family of Lloyd Neck, Long Island, New York. He had been a slave his entire life, allowed to attend school, and his formal education influenced his development as a poet. Like his masters, Hammon was a devout Christian and was influenced by the religious revivals taking place in 18th century New England.

His first published poem “An Evening’s Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penitential Cries”, was written on Christmas Day, 1760, and published as a broadside in early 1761, making it the first piece of literature published in the United States by a person of African descent. Considered a religious poet, Hammon also served as a preacher to the other enslaved members of the Lloyd estate.

When Henry Lloyd died in 1763, Jupiter went to live with Henry’s son, Joseph Lloyd. Joseph was a patriot during the Revolutionary War, and when the British captured New York and confiscated his land he fled to Connecticut taking Jupiter with him. When the war ended they returned to the Manor, where Jupiter continued to writer his poetry and prose.

His second extant piece of poetry, “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley”, published 17 years after the first, honored Phillis Wheatley. Hammon never mentions himself in the poem, but it appears that in choosing Wheatley as a subject, he was acknowledging their common bond.

He was a prominent member of the African-American community, and in 1787 made a speed to the African Society of New York City titled “An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York”, also know as the “Hammon Address.” Hammon wrote the speech at age seventy-six after a lifetime of slavery, containing his famous words, “If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being black, or for being slaves.”

Jupiter’s death was unrecorded, but historians place it somewhere around 18006. He spent his final years living with John Nelson Lloyd, a great-grandson of Henry. He was buried on the Lloyd estate in an unmarked grave.

An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penetential Cries

Salvation comes by Jesus Christ alone,
    The only Son of God;
Redemption now to every one,
    That love his holy Word.
Dear Jesus we would fly to Thee,
    And leave off every Sin,
Thy Tender Mercy well agree;
    Salvation from our King.
Salvation comes now from the Lord,
    Our victorious King;
His holy Name be well ador’d,
    Salvation surely bring.
Dear Jesus give they Spirit now,
    Thy Grace to every Nation,
That han’t the Lord to whom we bow,
    The Author of Salvation.
Dear Jesus unto Thee we cry,
    Give us the Preparation;
Turn not away thy tender Eye;
    We seek thy true Salvation.
Salvation comes from God we know,
    The true and only One;
It’s well agreed and certain true,
    He gave his only Son.
Lord hear our penetential Cry:
    Salvation from above;
It is the Lord that doth supply,
    With his Redeeming Love.
Dear Jesus by thy precious Blood,
    The World Redemption have:
Salvation now comes from the Lord,
    He being thy captive slave.
Dear Jesus let the Nations cry,
    And all the People say,
Salvation comes from Christ on high,
    Haste on Tribunal Day.
We cry as Sinners to the Lord,
    Salvation to obtain;
It is firmly fixt his holy Word,
    Ye shall not cry in vain.
Dear Jesus unto Thee we cry,
    And make our Lamentation:
O let our Prayers ascend on high;
    We felt thy Salvation.
Lord turn our dark benighted Souls;
    Give us a true Motion,
And let the Hearts of all the World,
    Make Christ their Salvation.
Ten Thousand Angels cry to Thee,
    Yea lourder than the Ocean.
Thou art the Lord, we plainly see;
    Thou art the true Salvation.
Now is the Day, excepted Time;
     The Day of Salvation;
Increase your Faith, do no repine:
    Awake ye every Nation.
Lord unto whom now shall we go,
    Or seek a safe Abode;
Thou hast the Word Salvation too
    The only Son of God.
Ho! every one that hunger hath,
    Or pineth after me,
Salvation be thy leading Staff,
    To set the Sinner free.
Dear Jesus unto Thee we fly;
    Depart, depart from Sin,
Salvation doth at length supply,
    The Glory of our King.
Come ye Blessed of the Lord,
    Salvation greatly given;
O turn your Hearts, accept the Word,
    Your Souls are fit for Heaven.
Dear Jesus we now turn to Thee,
    Salvation to obtain;
Our Hearts and Souls do meet again,
    To magnify thy Name.
Come holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove,
    The Object of our Care;
Salvation doth increase our Love;
    Our Hearts hath felt thy fear.
Now Glory be to God on High,
    Salvation high and low;
And thus the Soul on Christ rely,
    To Heaven surely go.
Come Blessed Jesus, Heavenly Dove,
    Accept Repentance here;
Salvation give, with tender Love;
    Let us with Angels share.
 Jupiter Hammon

http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/jupiter-hammon-poetic-pioneer
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/jupiter-hammon
http://www.poemhunter.com/jupiter-hammon/biography/
http://lloydharborhistoricalsociety.org/jupiter.html

 

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