October 17, 2020, marked the designation from United for Libraries and Empire State Center for the Book recognized Joseph Lloyd Manor as a Literary Landmark for Jupiter Hammon.
I was one of the hundreds who attended the virtual ceremony hosted by Preservation Long Island which recognized the extraordinary life of Jupiter Hammon and elevates his status as a notable African American and Long Islander.
Having grown up near Lloyd Harbor, I was aware of the manor but unaware of its connection to slavery or Jupiter Hammon. My own curiosity has allowed me to connect with others in search of Jupiter’s history and I have come to refer to Mr. Hammon as my 300ish-year-old friend.
Born a slave on the manor or plantation of Henry Lloyd in what is now known as Lloyd Neck on Long Island, Jupiter Hammon lived as a slave for his entire life but was able to become one of the first African American published writers. He left us a remarkable body of essays and poems were written all while he was an enslaved African American, on Long Island.Those writings show evidence of his deep religious beliefs and his support for the abolishment of slavery.
Jupiter was presumably a house slave and it is known, through the letters and documentation of the Lloyd family that Jupiter was close to the Lloyd’s. He was educated along with Lloyd’s own children on the manor. He also handled business transactions for his owners.
His obvious intelligence was cultivated, to a point, by the Lloyds. Education was a priority of the Lloyds and Jupiter was able to exercise that permission.
In his 50’s, with the Lloyd family as his editors, Jupiter was able to publish his works. His early writings were most likely seen as a tool to calm other slaves that may have wanted to rise up in revolt against their enslavement. Jupiter’s words encouraged other slaves to accept their place and not do anything that would anger their masters.
In his later years, Jupiter became a voice against slavery and encouraged the abolishment of slavery. He wrote not about freedom for all slaves, but he took into account how older slaves, those who had lived all their lives in the slave system, would manage their own care. They had no property, little or no education, and no means to make money to support themselves.
Jupiter lived to the age of 95. That alone was an accomplishment since the life expectancy of slaves was generally much shorter.
The Literary Landmark status dedicated yesterday was certainly a long time coming and is an affirmation of the accomplishments and perseverance of our earliest African Americans.