An interesting note about the history of African American bondage brings up the little known figure of Jupiter Hammon. Hammon holds the dubious honor of being a slave in favor of slavery. But if we look deeper into his writing you can understand his logic. Hammond was in bondage all his life to the Lloyd family of upstate New York and lived from 1711 to 1805. He was never emancipated but was allowed to learn to read and write by his white masters. He became a valuable house slave and valet to the Lloyd family and was the first black slave poet published in the United States.
Among his many writing and sermons was a piece called “An Address to the Negroes in the State of New-York (1787)”. In this piece Hammond called on slaves to be good Christians and maintain their moral values despite their bondage. He also said that slaves were guaranteed a place in heaven because of their suffering and misery. In his speech Hammon stated “If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being black or for being slaves”. Although Hammon was resigned to his servitude he did have a desire that young black slaves would one day be free. He wrote in this regard “though for my own part I do not wish to be free, yet I should be glad, if others, especially the young negroes were to be free”.
Hammon’s believed in gradual emancipation because he thought that sudden emancipation would be difficult for blacks to attain. In the last years of his life he was well taken care of by his masters. He was partially blind and suffering the ailments that come with old age. At a time when there was no safety net for black people or anyone for that matter like Medicaid and social security, Hammon wrote about the realities of his time. It was estimated that at the time of his death he was 95 years old.