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(1787) Jupiter Hammon, “An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York,"




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Long Island-born Jupiter Hammon is believed to be the first published male African American poet and essayist.  His “Evening Thought, Salvation by Christ, with Penitential Cries,” was published in 1760.  His first essay, “Winter Piece,” appeared in 1782.  The speech below by Hammond is also thought to be the first oration by an African American that would later be published.  Here he addresses the African Americans of his state, listing what he believes will be the virtues that will win them the support of the surrounding white population.

I take the liberty to dedicate an address to my poor brethren to you. If you think it is likely to do good among them, I do not doubt but you will take it under your care. You have discovered so much kindness and good will to those you thought were oppressed, and had no helper, that I am sure you will not despise what I have wrote, if you judge it will be of any service to them. I have nothing to add, but only to wish that the blessing of many ready to perish, may come upon you.

To the Public:

When I am writing to you with a design to say something to you for your good, and with a view to promote your happiness, I can with truth and sincerity join with the apostle Paul, when speaking of his own nation the Jews, and say, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. Yes my dear brethren, when I think of you, which is very often, and of the poor, despised and miserable state you are in, as to the things of this world, and when I think of your ignorance and stupidity, and the great wickedness of the most of you, I am pained to the heart. It is at times, almost too much for human nature to bear, and I am obliged to turn my thoughts from the subject or endeavour to still my mind, by considering that it is permitted thus to be, by that God who governs all things, who seteth up one and pulleth down another. While I have been

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