By Sarah Kautz, Preservation Director, Preservation Long Island.
Preservation Long Island has been introducing visitors to Jupiter Hammon, America’s first published black poet, at Joseph Lloyd Manor since the house opened to the public in the 1980s. Hammon’s life and writings offer an exceptionally nuanced view of slavery and freedom on Long Island before and after the American Revolution. His works are especially significant because most literature and historical documents from the 18th century were not written from an enslaved person’s point of view. Consequently, Hammon’s writing provides powerful insight into the experience of slavery, as well as the social and moral conflicts slavery raised in the newly formed United States.
Jupiter Hammon was born on October 17, 1711, at Queens Village or Lloyd Neck, the colonial estate of Henry Lloyd. Remarkably, Hammon was educated alongside Henry Lloyd’s children, becoming one of the few slaves taught to read and write during the 18th century. As an adult, Hammon resided for a time at Joseph Lloyd Manor, which was built on Lloyd Neck in 1766 for Henry Lloyd’s son, Joseph. Hammon served four generations of the Lloyd family and lived a long life into his 80s.
Although he was never legally emancipated, literacy gave Hammon the freedom to explore ideas and express himself intellectually. Hammon’s earliest poem, An Evening Thought, was printed in broadside around 1761. In addition to authoring two unpublished poems found at Yale University in 2011 and the New-York Historical Society in 2015, he published at least four poems and three essays during his lifetime. Of course, more poems and essays by Jupiter Hammon could yet be found!
Joseph Lloyd Manor is open Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day on Sundays, 1–5 PM, and by appointment. Preservation Long Island also offers a variety of on-site educational programs. For more information, please contact Preservation Long Island at (631) 692-4664.