From GreenLadyHere:

Though assertions that Phillis Wheatley was America’s first published African-American poet continue to surface, that assertion has been discredited for many years. In fact, a slave by the name of Jupiter Hammon is credited with that title.

Jupiter Hammon’s first published work, an 88-line broadside, came out in Hartford, Connecticut in 1760 — when Phillis was only seven years old and ten years prior to her first broadside publication, entitled “Elegy on the death of Whitefield.”

Born a slave on the Henry Lloyd Manor on Lloyd Neck, on Long Island in New York, Hammon (October 7, 1711 – ca. 1790) was educated in the household and became a trusted bookkeeper for the mercantile family, whose commercial interests spread from Boston to the West Indies and from Connecticut to London. He was also a preacher among fellow slaves.

December 25, 1760 marks the date his first work was published: “An Evening’s Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penitential Cries,” an 88-line broadside inscribed “Hartford Ct.” “A Winter Piece,” prose contemplations, was published the following year. Four or five other works published subsequently, through 1787, including addresses to Phyllis Wheatley and “to the Negroes in New York State,” and some undiscovered verses celebrating the visit of Prince William Henry to Lloyd Manor House in 1782, prior to the defeat of the British.

The original of Jupiter Hammon’s 1760 work may be found in the New York State Historical Society. A full account of Hammon, including a biographical sketch, poems, and critical analysis of his works, may be found in America’s First Negro Poet: The Complete Works of Jupiter Hammon of Long Island (Associated Faculty Press, Inc., Kenniket Press, Empire State Historical Publications Series, 1983, Port Washington, NY – compare prices to buy the book).

Here’s Hammon’s poetical address to Wheatley, dated “Hartford, Aug 4, 1778,” published in broadsheet:

* “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatly”


“Chapter 2: Jupiter Hammon’s Poem to Phillis Wheatley”

“An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatly [sic], Ethiopian Poetess, in Boston, who came from Africa at eight years of age, and soon became acquainted with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Miss Wheatly; pray give leave to express as follows:

O, come you pious youth: adore
The wisdom of thy God.
In bringing thee from distant shore,
To learn His holy word.

Thou mightst been left behind,
Amidst a dark abode;
God’s tender Mercy still combin’d,
Thou hast the holy word.

Fair wisdom’s ways are paths of peace,
And they that walk therein,
Shall reap the joys that never cease,
And Christ shall be their king.

God’s tender mercy brought thee here,
tost o’er the raging main;
In Christian faith thou hast a share,
Worth all the gold of Spain.

While thousands tossed by the sea,
And others settled down,
God’s tender mercy set thee free,
From dangers still unknown.

That thou a pattern still might be,
To youth of Boston town,
The blessed Jesus thee free,
From every sinful wound.

The blessed Jesus, who came down,
Unveil’d his sacred face,
To cleanse the soul of every wound,
And give repenting grace.

That we poor sinners may obtain
The pardon of our sin;
Dear blessed Jesus now constrain,
And bring us flocking in.

Come you, Phillis, now aspire,
And seek the living God,
So step by step thou mayst go higher,
Till perfect in the word.

While thousands mov’d to distant shore,
And others left behind,
The blessed Jesus still adore,
Implant this in thy mind.

Thou hast left the heathen shore;
Thro’ mercy of the Lord,
Among the heathen live no more,
Come magnify thy God.

I pray the living God may be,
The sheperd of thy soul;
His tender mercies still are free,
His mysteries to unfold.

Thou, Phillis, when thou hunger hast,
Or pantest for thy God;
Jesus Christ is thy relief,
Thou hast the holy word.

The bounteous mercies of the Lord,
Are hid beyond the sky,
And holy souls that love His word,
Shall taste them when they die.

These bounteous mercies are from God,
The merits of his Son;
The humble soul that loves his word,
He chooses for his own.

Come, dear Phillis, be advisíd,
To drink Samaria’s flood;
There nothing is that shall suffice,
But Christ’s redeeming blood.

When thousands muse with earthly toys,
And range about the street,
Dear Phillis, seek for heaven’s joys,
Where we do hope to meet.

When God shall send His summons down,
And number saints together.
Blest angels chant, (triumphant sound)
Come live with me forever.

The humble soul shall fly to God,
And leave the things of time,
Start forth as ’twere at the first word,
To taste things more divine.

Behold! the soul shall waft away,
Wheneíer we come to die,
And leave this cottage made of clay,
In twinkling of an eye.

Now glory be to the Most High,
United praises given,
By all on earth, incessantly,
And all the host of heavín.

Composed by Jupiter Hammon, Hartford, August 4, 1778

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