Black History Month: Jupiter Hammon's legacy of fighting against social injustice

Jupiter Hammon was the first African-American poet to be published in the U.S. Born into slavery to Henry Lloyd in Lloyd Harbor on October 17,

Jupiter Hammon was the first African-American poet to be published in the U.S. Born into slavery to Henry Lloyd in Lloyd Harbor on October 17, 1711 - Hammon went to school with the Lloyd family children, where he learned how to read and write.

Jupiter Hammon was the first African-American poet to be published in the U.S. Born into slavery to Henry Lloyd in Lloyd Harbor on October 17, 1711 - Hammon went to school with the Lloyd family children, where he learned how to read and write. (2/20/17)

LLOYD HARBOR - A few years after the end of the Revolutionary War, Jupiter Hammon sat in his slave quarters in Lloyd Manor and penned a poignant essay.

It was titled "An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York."

Hammon reflected on the war and the cause of liberty for which it was fought. He concluded that freedom should not only be for whites, but for his fellow slaves as well.

Hammon wrote - in part, "I acknowledge that liberty is a great thing, and worth seeking for, if we can get it honestly, and by our good conduct, prevail on our masters to set us free."

He was the first African-American poet to be published in the U.S. Born into slavery to Henry Lloyd in Lloyd Harbor on October 17, 1711 - Hammon went to school with the Lloyd family children, where he learned how to read and write. He wrote several poems and essays about slavery and religion - and is considered one of the founders of African-American literature.

Historian Ciel Stepanian says that Hammon was a house slave. His mother Rose was the cook and his father, Obedia, was a farmhand. He did the everyday chores - getting firewood, bringing in the water, among other chores.

As a house slave, Hammon did not have physical freedom but he did have independence of thought. That's because Lloyd encouraged Hammon to attend school.

"There was a schoolhouse that Henry built for his children. He had teachers come in to teach the children as well as the slaves and this is where Jupiter got his education," says Ciel Stephanian.

At one point he saved up his money to purchase a Bible and after reading the Bible, he reached the conclusion that it wasn't right that some people were free and others were in servitude. So he started writing essays and poems speaking out against slavery.

Hammon published seven poems and essays in his lifetime. His themes were biblical - highlighting the power of prayer, God's love, peace and equality.

Although he died before seeing the abolition of slavery, in New York in the 1840s, Hammon's legacy of fighting against social injustice lives on in the power of his prose.

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