Category: African American History
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 the 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.
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.
Samuel Ballton, 1838-1917 – Entrepreneur, musician, “Pickle King of L.I.”
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.
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.
Today’s post is about my 300-year-old friend, Jupiter Hammon. There are no known photos of Jupiter but I’m enjoying learning about his life on Long Island. This was definitely not in any history book in high school. Ironic too, because he lived only a few miles from my high school.
Jupiter was born into slavery on October 17, 1711, in the manor house of Henry Lloyd in Lloyd’s Neck on Long Island. A slave of the Lloyd family, Jupiter read and studied the bible and was also the first African American published in the United States. Jupiter became known as a preacher to the slaves on Lloyd Manor and in surrounding communities. He was a gentle person and he taught the gospel of the bible and encouraged slaves to be dutiful yet learn the true teachings of Christianity.
He will bring us all, rich and poor, white and black, to his judgment seat. – Jupiter Hammon
Let all the time you can get be spent in trying to learn to read. – Jupiter Hammon
That education was unheard of for a woman, let alone an African slave. Phillis is credited with being the first African American published in Europe in 1773.
Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side.
Thy every action let the goddess guide.”
While slaves of the time were being offered freedom by the British in exchange for loyalty to the British crown, Miss Wheatley displayed her support for the Continental Army. Her support earned her an invitation from General Washington to visit General Washington at his headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Her patriotic writings, in later times, were not held with the same enthusiasm. Phillis Wheatley died in her early 30s in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 5, 1784.