Categories: Colonization and Settlement, Hartford, Literature, Who Knew?

Hartford Publishes the First Literary Work by an African American – Who Knew?

Detail from the broadside an "Address to Miss Phillis Wheatly" composed by Jupiter Hammon
Detail from the broadside an “Address to Miss Phillis Wheatly” composed by Jupiter Hammon – Connecticut Historical Society

…that Jupiter Hammon, who endured life-long enslavement became the first African American writer to be published in America when his 88-line poem, “An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries”, was published. A devout Christian, Hammon composed his work on Christmas Day, 1760; it was printed in Hartford in 1761 as a broadside (a work printed on a single large sheet of paper).

Born on October 17, 1711, Hammon lived on Huntington, Long Island, where he worked as a slave for four generations of the Lloyd family. During the American Revolution he was removed to Connecticut by the family when the British occupation of Huntington exiled them from their home. While in Hartford, Hammon published additional works including “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatly” in 1778, “An Essay on the Ten Virgins” in 1779, and “A Winter Piece” in 1782. Hammon is also recognized as being one of the first to write about black theology and is credited with influencing antislavery protest literature in America.

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Documents

Hammon, Jupiter. “Address to Miss Phillis Wheatly, Ethiopian Poetess, in Boston, Who Came from Africa at Eight Years of Age, and Soon Became Acquainted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ ... Composed by Jupiter Hammon, a Negro Man Belonging to Mr. Joseph Lloyd, of Queen’s Village, on Long-Island, Now in Hartford.” Hartford, 1778. Connecticut History Illustrated, Connecticut Historical Society. Link.

Books

Hammon, Jupiter, Stanley Austin Ransom, and Oscar Wegelin. America’s First Negro Poet; the Complete Works of Jupiter Hammon of Long Island. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1970.
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