Jupiter Hammon, an enslaved man, poet, and devout Christian who became the first published African-American writer, was born today in 1711 on the Lloyd family estate on Long Island. While little is known about the finer details of Hammon’s life, as a boy, young Jupiter was educated alongside the Lloyd family’s children and was encouraged to read, write, and study the Bible — a highly unusual arrangement for the time. He became a devout Christian and dabbled in writing poetry, sermons, and meditations when he wasn’t working as a farmhand and clerk. Hammon penned an 88-line poem titled “An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penetential Cries,” on Christmas Day, 1760, which was published as a single-page broadside in Hartford, Connecticut in early 1761. The exact circumstances surrounding the publication of Hammon’s poem are unknown, but Hammon’s poem made history by virtue of becoming the first published literary work by an African-American in what is now the United States.
Jupiter Hammon, “An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penitential Cries,” University of Virginia Library
“Hartford Publishes the First Literary Work by an African-American,” connecticuthistory.org