Essay on Slavery

“Essay on Slavery,” a manuscript poem in the Hillhouse Family Papers in Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, written in 1786 by Jupiter Hammon, a slave, has received scholarly recognition by Professor Cedrick May of the University of Texas, Arlington. Presented by the Americanist Colloquium and the African-American Studies Department at Yale on February 21, Professor May discussed his literary and biographical findings on Hammon, the first African American to publish literary works in America. Hammon identified himself in the manuscript as “A Negro Man belonging to Mr. John Lloyd, Queens Village on Long Island. November 10, 1786.” Sarah Lloyd, John Lloyd’s daughter, was the first wife of James Hillhouse (1754-1832), an early abolitionist and developer of New Haven and Yale, who as a U.S. senator worked to abolish the slave trade in 1807 and to prohibit slavery in the Louisiana Territory. Professor May is working on a new edition of Hammon’s poetry and prose. The research by May and his student Julie McCown at Yale is the focus of an article to be published in the June 2013 edition of the journal Early American Literature along with the full text of Hammon’s “An Essay on Slavery.”

  • For more information, see the online finding aid to the Hillhouse Family Papers at:
  • To place a request for access in the reading room to the specific box (Box 80A) that this poem is contained within, click here.
  • The four page poem has been digitized and can been seen online in the Manuscripts and Archives Digital Image Database, click here. It is possible to order high-quality photoduplication of these images, using the information regarding ordering found on that site.

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