History – Jupiter Hammon

February 29th, 2012 by Black Gospel Choir

October 17, 1711 – before 1806
Jupiter Hammon was a Black poet who became the first African-American published writer in America when a poem appeared in print in 1760. He was a slave his entire life, and the date of his death is unknown.

jupiter hammon

He was living in 1790 at the age of 79, and died by 1806. Hammon was a devout Christian, and is considered one of the founders of African American literature.

Hammon was born a slave and was owned by four generations of the Lloyd family of Queens on Long Island, New York. His parents were both slaves. His father, called Opium, and unlike most slaves could read and write.

On September 24, 1786, He expressed his views on slavery when he delivered his “Address to the Negroes of the State of New York”, also known as the “Hammon Address”, before the African Society. Hammon wrote the speech at age seventy-six after a lifetime of slavery. It contains his famous words, “If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being black, or for being slaves.”

The speech draws heavily on Christian motifs and theology. For example, Hammon said that Black people should maintain their high moral standards precisely because being slaves on Earth had already secured their place in heaven. Hammon’s speech also promoted the idea of a gradual emancipation as a way of ending slavery. It is thought that Hammon stated this plan because he knew that slavery was so entrenched in American society that an immediate emancipation of all slaves would be difficult to achieve. His speech was initially published by the New York Quakers, and was later reprinted by several groups opposed to slavery, including the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, because the strong religious motifs and ideas of gradual emancipation were moderate enough to be taken seriously by whites, but still firmly rooted in abolition.

Hammon’s famous speech and his poetry are often anthologized. The first known African American to publish literature in the US (several years later in 1767, Phillis Wheatley had published her poems, but in England, not the US), Hammon was a favorite servant, clerk, farmhand, and artisan in the Lloyd family business. Hammon was allowed to attend school and was a fervent Christian, as were the Lloyds. His first published poem was written on Christmas Day, 1760. “An Evening Thought. Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries: Composed by Jupiter Hammon, a Negro belonging to Mr. Lloyd of Queen’s Village, on Long Island, the 25th of December, 1760” appeared as a broadside in 1761. Three other poems and three sermon essays followed. In Hammon’s “Address to the Negroes of New York, to the African Society,” he said that while he personally had no wish to be free, he did wish others, especially “the young Negroes, were free.”

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Whitney’s Homegoing Service

February 14th, 2012 by Black Gospel Choir

Thanking Whitney’s mother Cissy Houston for deciding to hold the service at New Hope “…… brought the world to church today,” Pastor Marvin Winans said during his eulogy. The decision kept the funeral personal and respectful for the family and friends while allowing the fans to watch the broadcast of Whitney’s farewell. The three-and-a-half-hour service was watched by millions where she was not only remembered for her voice, but her kindness. Speakers at the service called her an angel, others spoke to remind everyone that she was a child of God.

houston funeral


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Passing: Dr. Patricia Stephens Due

February 8th, 2012 by Black Gospel Choir
Patricia Stephens Due

Dr. Patricia Stephens Due died after a long struggle fighting thyroid cancer. She passed away at a skilled nursing facility near Atlanta, where she had moved to be close to her three daughters. She was 72.
At the age of 13 Dr. Due and her sister Priscilla started fighting segregation in Florida by insisting on being served at the “white only” window of their local Dairy Queen, instead of the “colored” window. In the summer of 1959, the sisters attended a nonviolent resistance workshop organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). On Feb. 20, 1960, eleven FAMU students, including Patricia and Priscilla, were arrested for ordering food at a “white only” Woolworth lunch counter. On March 12, dozens of FAMU and Florida State University students who participated in sit-ins at McCrory’s and Woolworth’s were arrested. A thousand students began marching from the FAMU campus toward downtown Tallahassee, but were stopped by Police officers with teargas. At the head of the march, Due was teargassed right in the face, and suffered permanent eye damage.
Due and the other sit-in participants were tried and found guilty on March 17, 1960. Eight refused to pay the $300 fine, deciding instead to go to jail. Eight students served 49 days at the Leon County Jail: FAMU students Patricia and Priscilla Stephens, John Broxton, Barbara Broxton and William Larkins, and three other students—Clement Carney, Angelina Nance, and 16-year-old high school student Henry Marion Steele (son of activist pastor Rev. C.K. Steele).

The “jail-in” gained nationwide attention, and the students received a supportive telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Due sent a letter to baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, who published it in a column he wrote. Robinson later sent the jailed students diaries so they could write down their experiences. After the jail-in, Due and the others traveled the country in speaking tours to publicize the civil rights movement. Due met Eleanor Roosevelt, author James Baldwin, and many other activists on those tours. She went on to be jailed multiple times as a leader in the movement.


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