October 17


October 17, 1711 Jupiter Hammon, the first African American published writer in America was born enslaved in Long Island, New York. Unlike most enslaved people, Hammon was allowed to attend school and could read and write. His first published poem, “An Evening Thought. Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries,” was written on Christmas Day, 1760. On September 24, 1786, he delivered his “Address to the Negroes of the State of New York,” in which he stated “If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being Black, or for being slaves.” He also said that black people should maintain their high moral standards precisely because slaves on earth had already secured their place in heaven. Hammon remained enslaved his whole life and the date of his death is unknown, but he died before 1806. Hammon’s story is told in “America’s First Negro Poet: The Complete Works of Jupiter Hammon of Long Island” (1970) and “Jupiter Hammon and the Biblical Beginnings of African American Literature” (1993).


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