To begin our 3345 class, we were assigned to read the works of Jupiter Hammon. I was not familiar with Hammon’s work, but quickly read through his poems and letters. I was surprised, I suppose, as I did not expect the heavy religious tones in his work. I myself am not familiar with much Christian literature, so I found it a bit difficult to pull much information from his works. What did catch my attention, however, was his repeated usage of words such as salvation and redemption. I made the obvious connection of these words to religion, but I did not find much past that. The next class, however, a discussion on Hammon and his life gave me a holistic understanding of his work, and I felt like it was easier to understand. We discussed, for example, why Hammon uses religion so heavily in his texts. From my understanding of the discussion, I see Hammon’s usage of religion as a sort of metaphor to reach a specific audience. Hammon may feel as if he is able to elaborate upon his ideas and message more greatly if he uses religion as a way of relating to his audience. I found this very easy to relate to, as this method is very popular in today’s society. This target audience, I suppose, is easier to reach with information or jargon which they are accustomed to. A British sitcom, for example, will be marketed a specific way, very different from a show about cars. Aside from Hammon’s religious undertones, I found it particularly interesting that, though he was born in 1711, none of his writing was published until 1760. Also, I learned that he was a verna, or a slave that was born into slavery. Regardless of his status, he was educated with the children of his master, and was quite competent at writing. Dr. May referred to Hammon as one of the first black intellectuals, and Hammon’s popularity among his peers is very evident, especially in “An Evening Thought”. In the work, Hammon states, “it hath been requested that I would write some- thing more for the advantage of my friends, by my surperiors, gentlemen, whose judgement I de- pend on, and by my friends in general, I have had an invitation to give a public exhortation” (Hammon 24). Hammon’s words show the great influence and reputation he had among the intellectual crowd. I found this fascinating, as it is very uncommon to here of a slave in the 18th century being such a strong figure. After reading this, though, I read a bit more on Jupiter Hammon’s biography. I was again surprised to learn that he was never emancipated. Dr. May described Hammon’s long and faithful service to the Lloyd family, and noted several instances of the family acknowledging his great character. It must have been quite a feat to accomplish everything he has done while being in the position he was in. Regardless of his lifelong enslavement, Jupiter Hammon not only earned the respect of his peers, but also his owners.
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