Author: Pam Jones-Nill

Special Celebration

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.

October 2020

I’ve been absent from this blog for several months but it has not been far from my mind. As we move even deeper into this election season, I’ve been trying to keep my emotions and feelings from getting away from me. It’s way too easy to get caught up in the noise. Here is one of my tips for keeping my happiness levels up. http://www.actionforhappiness.org

Give it a try. I’ll start – For October 1 – My most important goal this month is to complete a new manuscript. Your turn!

Surprises ahead in 2020!

It’s been a while since my last post but 2020 has started off with a few surprises for me and I’m catching up now. 

Non Fiction Festival -February

I completed the NF Fest in February. I’m truly thrilled to say I completed the 28 Day challenge and feel inspired to continue focusing on my non-fiction manuscripts. A bit of a new focus for me, but certainly one of great interest.

I live in New York State and as an adoptee, I was not able to obtain my original birth certificate. By law, adoptees received a “post-adoption” birth certificate listing their post-adoption name, birthplace and birth date. Only the birthplace and date were accurate, and the name on that certificate was the name given by the adopting parents.

The Governor of New York signed a bill in 2019 allowing all adoptees, over 18, to apply for and receive their original birth certificate. The law took effect on January 15th in 2020. I was so excited. By 8:30 am on the 15th, I had already applied online and received confirmation that my request had been received. I later saw news stories of hundreds of people lined up to apply in person and that was only in New York City. New York is a big state and I realized this was a big deal and not just for my own curiosity. Thousands of people were also wondering about their biological history. 

My Birth Certificate arrived about three weeks ago.  Much sooner than expected! So, now what?

I have my biological mother’s name, the time of my birth, her address at the time of my birth, and where she was born. I’ve shared some of this information with a biological cousin I found through DNA. The journey is just beginning.  

Francine Semon (left), Sandi Brewster-Walker (center) and myself (right)

Armed with this scant information, I signed up for an African American Genealogy workshop at the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead, NY.  Sandi Brewster-Walker, Historian / Genealogist and former Deputy Director of the Office of Communications in the Department of Agriculture during the Clinton Administration, guided us through some useful tools for Genealogy researching. Before the start of the discussion many participants, were surprised to learn we had multiple connections to the town of Huntington. Myself included, since I grew up there. After the discussion, the connections continued. Over cheese and crackers, I accidentally found out that I was in this workshop with a relative of my brothers’ brother.  Weird but true!  My brother reconnected with his biological family a couple of years ago. Luckily, I still had photos on my phone to share. After some very reunion like laughter and stories, I left there with more family than I when I woke that morning. I also left with the tools, education, and support to seek even more.  I can’t wait to find the next surprise.

My 300 Year Old Friend – part 2

This will be my last Black History Month related post for 2019 but I can’t promise I won’t revisit my friend Jupiter Hammon.


I took advantage of a long plane ride this week to continue researching my friend Jupiter Hammon.  Cedrick May edited The Collected Works of Jupiter Hammon, published in 2017.  This is my second time reading this collection and it will not be the last.

The new insights into the life of Jupiter Hammon from Cedrick May are very different from in previous biographies published on Hammon.  While it is a joy to read the written, published works of this important African-American poet it is equally important reading the notes and comments from Mr. May.  His interpretation of Hammon’s writings in parallel with the historical happenings of the time help to center Jupiter to his surroundings.

Researching a person of color, and African-American slave born in 1711 is not the easiest thing to do, but is sure is fun. There are no paintings or illustrations of his image.  The camera had not been invented yet at Jupiter’s birth, or by the time of his death, estimated around 1806.  The fact that there is so much material documented for Jupiter is astounding and most likely related to the fact that his owners were successful businessmen and in the habit of maintaining copious documentation.

I can’t explain my almost obsession to Jupiter but I’m all in now.  I’ll be scheduling more time at the Lloyd Harbor Historical Society and other historical resources as I continue my research.

African American Entrepreneur

I’ve done a really bad job of keeping my posts consistent.  I think my daily post plan was too aggressive.  Truly, I love selecting the African Americans that I am highlighting this month.  This is a, “it’s not you – it’s me,” moment if ever I saw one.

To salvage the week at least, I’m calling attention to a local African American that is not widely well known.  I’ve found the following brief article to share in this post.


Sam Balton 3
Samuel Balton           Photo courtesy of SCHS

Samuel Ballton, 1838-1917 – Entrepreneur, musician, “Pickle King of L.I.”

Sam Balton 2
Photo courtesy of huntingtonny.gov

Born into slavery in Virginia, escaped in 1862 from forced labor (repairing the Confederacy’s Virginia Central Railway), then made two attempts to rescue his wife and family, the second successful, enlisted in the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment (U.S. Colored Troops), which helped occupy Richmond in 1865, guarded enemy prisoners, and ended its service in Texas. Honorably discharged, he disappears from the record, until 1873, when he reappears in Greenlawn, L.I., NY, where his business and real estate acumen began to really shine, along with the diversification of his many business interests and private and government contracts. Ballton acquired, leased, and rented land growing at one point 1.5 million cucumbers and starting a pickle trade. He became one of a leader in the growth and development and political life of Greenlawn. Several of the homes he built are still standing today. There is an annual Greenlawn Pickle fest held by the Greenlawn-Centerport Historical Society in his honor.   Read more about Samuel Balton’s fascinating life.

Sources:
“The Pickle King of Greenlawn” (Huntington History)


For all the popular historical African Americans remembered through history, Long Island is rich in forgotten or nearly forgotten African American history.  Researching their stories and working to tell them, even in this small blog, is a celebration of their lives, accomplishments.