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JUPITER HAMMON CHOOSES THE CROSS. [Continental Army Series]

JUPITER HAMMON CHOOSES THE CROSS. [Continental Army Series]

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Published by Wm. Thomas Sherman
JUPITER HAMMON CHOOSES THE CROSS.
[Continental Army Series]

William Thomas Sherman, www.gunjones.com
JUPITER HAMMON CHOOSES THE CROSS.
[Continental Army Series]

William Thomas Sherman, www.gunjones.com

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Published by: Wm. Thomas Sherman on Sep 09, 2013
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02/17/2014

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“Am I not a Man & a Brother,” and with a readily apparent allusion to Gethsemane, oil on canvas, 18
th
century EnglishSchool Wilberforce House, Hull City Museums and Art Galleries.
JUPITER HAMMON CHOOSES THE CROSS.
“Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me into Edom?Was it not you who rejected us, God? Do you no longer march with our armies?Give us aid against the foe; worthless is human help.We will triumph with the help of God, who will trample down our foes.”
~ Psalm 108: 11-14
 Naught contributed more to freeing Black people from slavery, both in the United States andaround the world, than the force of Christianity; with the particular sects most influential in this regard being the Quakers and Methodists; with Calvinist Congregationalism sometimes playing a part as well. Theimpact of such Christians in assailing and undermining the institution of slavery was three fold: first, in thatthe most vocal and leading advocates of abolition were Christians; second, Christianity by its appeal to Godas ultimate authority made it possible for Blacks to begin becoming dignified as human beings in the faceof White prejudice, and third, Christianity by way of Bible reading became the basis of Black educationand literacy; two crucial and necessary aspects to emancipation.By being equal before God, it was a natural and logical step to say that Blacks were and ought to be entitled to be treated as equal among all other men before the law. Of course, what sounds so obviousand easy in theory was a far cry from what it actually took to bring this about in fact, and, needless to add, problems that separate races remain to be overcome even to this day. The violence, abuse, persecution, anddeath Blacks suffered was often so horrendous that their struggle can be likened to a literal war in whichmany thousands were imprisoned, wounded, maimed, and killed. This would not even need to bementioned here except to point out that for every occasion of brutality and flagrant abuse and injusticeBlacks in the United States are known to have suffered, there are countless other instances unaccounted for and unrecorded.Coming from a past of almost utter darkness and anonymity, and in which they were accorded astatus little better than outsiders, children, and non-entities, what a vivifying breath of fresh air then is it for us to learn that Blacks
 first 
obtained something like a modicum of social prominence and respectability inthe United States with the appearance of Negro ministers and preachers in about the mid-1780’s; largelywithin and about the Philadelphia area. Although the Quakers were the first to speak out against the evils of slavery and on behalf of abolition, it was Methodism that initially ordained Black ministers; with someCalvinist denominations gradually following.
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The significance of the emergent Black ministries of such asLemuel Haynes (1753-1833), Absalom Jones (1746-1818), and Richard Allen (1760-1831), cannot be tooheavily underscored; for until that time there was no such thing as a public Black man. If Phillis Wheatley
1
In fairness to the Quakers, they, of course, did not have ministers to begin with; all were “brethren.”
 
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secured widespread notoriety as poet, it was chiefly as an anomaly and curiosity; her success havingrelatively little or no
immediate
impact on her fellows. With the advent of Black clergymen and preachers,the movement to elevate and ennoble Blacks at large became rooted in earnest. It was then in and throughthe Church that Booker T. Washington’s phrase “up from slavery” commenced to take on any realmeaning.How did this
revolutionary
transformation come about, as it were, so suddenly? Part credit is dueto the example and contributions of the Black Revolutionary War veterans, and who demonstrated toeveryone that they could be the equal of Whites on the hard fought battlefield; a fact later alluded to by theBlack ministers in their sermons. Furthermore, the support and encouragement of sojourning Europeanssuch as Lafayette and Kosciuszko for Black freedom further bolstered the cause.And yet the one Black individual who historically and as far as we know had the single most profound influence on the dramatic change in Black status, or at the very least most symbolized it, was the Negro poet and preacher Jupiter Hammon (1711-c. 1806), from (western) Long Island, New York. As aslave, Hammon had the good fortune to belong to the wealthy merchant Lloyd family; who were progressive Methodists. When he wasn’t working for them as a domestic servant, the Lloyd’s sent him toschool. Much of this education involved reading and studying the Bible; as well as learning how to write.As time went on, Hammon took to writing poetry; some of which was published and, as he attests, garnered praise from both Whites and Blacks, and at some point he knew and corresponded with Phillis Wheatley.Following the Revolutionary War, he and other Blacks in the New York City area formed African Societiesfor the help, education, and advancement of Negroes. It was for such a group that in 1786 he published his“An Address to the Negroes of the State of New York.” In it, he exhorted his Black brethren to virtue as the basis for seeking moral equality with Whites; not least of which by enjoining them to turn to the Bible asguide to better living in this life and for a hope of a future one in the next. Hammon’s views were far fromradical; indeed to us today they seem far too tame and subservient. He accepts slavery while arguing that if the Blacks behave better, he says, their masters will treat them better. And yet we must remember that for aBlack man in the United States in to that day just to be printed and read was itself an unheard of feat anddrastic movement toward palpable change. At the same time, Hammon was wise enough to grasp thateducation and literacy necessarily preceded emancipation, and the by far most effective way of achievingthis was to encourage Bible reading and study. And it was this attitude and outlook then that made possiblethe aforementioned Black ministers and preachers that sprang up in the late 18
th
century.As he states himself, Hammon could have wished freedom for Blacks of his own generation, butfor unavoidable practical and political reasons saw this as an impossibility. In its stead, and no littleinspired by and mindful of the lesson of recently won United States independence, he looked to laying thegroundwork of the liberty for future Black generations. In this and in retrospect, he acted the role of  prophet.In reading Hammon then one must be prepared
not 
to be dazzled by flights of literary virtuosity,and as far as Black 18
th
century poets go Phillis Wheatley Peters’ writings are far more to be preferred. Yetdespite the quaint prose and unremarkable, if heartfelt and sometimes (as addressed to Whites) wry, verse,it is most important to keep in mind his role as father and elementary teacher of his people, and how whathe did in these capacities helped decisively to clear and open up the path for those who came after him. Tomiss this didactic dynamic is to miss his genius, and which we otherwise will predictably be blind fromseeing and adequately appreciating.~~~~~~***~~~~~~Extracts from “Address to the Negroes of the State of New York” (1786).
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…[M]y dear brethren, when I think of you, which is very often, and of the poor, despised andmiserable state you are in, as to the things of this world, and when I think of your ignorance and stupidity,and the great wickedness of the most of you, I am pained to the heart. It is at times, almost too much for 
2
For the complete text of the address, see:http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/etas/12/
 
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human nature to bear, and I am obliged to turn my thoughts from the subject or endeavour to still my mind, by considering that it is permitted thus to be, by that God who governs all things, who seteth up one and pulleth down another. While I have been thinking on this subject, I have frequently had great struggles inmy own mind, and have been at a loss to know what to do. I have wanted exceedingly to say something toyou, to call upon you with the tenderness of a father and friend, and to give you the last, and I may say,dying advice, of an old man, who wishes your best good in this world, and in the world to come. But whileI have had such desires, a sense of my own ignorance, and unfitness to teach others, has frequentlydiscouraged me from attempting to say any thing to you; yet when I thought of your situation, I could notrest easy.When I was at Hartford in Connecticut, where I lived during the war, I published several pieceswhich were well received, not only by those of my own colour, but by a number of the white people, whothought they might do good among their servants. This is one consideration, among others, that emboldensme now to publish what I have written to you. Another is, I think you will be more likely to listen to what issaid, when you know it comes from a negro, one your own nation and colour, and therefore can have nointerest in deceiving you, or in saying any thing to you, but what he really thinks is your interest and duty tocomply with. My age, I think, gives me some right to speak to you, and reason to expect you will hearkento my advice. I am now upwards of seventy years old, and cannot expect, though I am well, and able to doalmost any kind of business, to live much longer. I have passed the common bounds set for man, and mustsoon go the way of all the earth. I have had more experience in the world than the most of you, and I haveseen a great deal of the vanity, and wickedness of it. I have great reason to be thankful that my lot has beenso much better than most slaves have had. I suppose I have had more advantages and privileges than mostof you, who are slaves have ever known, and I believe more than many white people have enjoyed, for which I desire to bless God, and pray that he may bless those who have given them to me. I do not, my dear friends, say these things about myself to make you think that I am wiser or better than others; but that youmight hearken, without prejudice, to what I have to say to you on the following particulars.1st. Respecting obedience to masters. Now whether it is right, and lawful, in the sight of God, for them to make slaves of us or not, I am certain that while we are slaves, it is our duty to obey our masters, inall their lawful commands, and mind them unless we are bid to do that which we know to be sin, or forbidden in God’s word. The apostle Paul says, “Servants be obedient to them that are your mastersaccording to the flesh, with fear and trembling in singleness in your heart as unto christ: Not with eyeservice, as men pleasers, but as the servants of Christ doing the will of God from the heart: With good willdoing service to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatever thing a man doeth the same shall hereceive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.” -- Here is a plain command of God for us to obey our masters. It may seem hard for us, if we think our masters wrong in holding us slaves, to obey in all things, but who of us dare dispute with God! He has commanded us to obey, and we ought to do it chearfully, andfreely. This should be done by us, not only because God commands, but because our own peace andcomfort depend upon it. As we depend upon our masters, for what we eat and drink and wear, and for allour comfortable things in this world, we cannot be happy, unless we please them. This we cannot dowithout obeying them freely, without muttering or finding fault. If a servant strives to please his master andstudies and takes pains to do it, I believe there are but few masters who would use such a servant cruelly.Good servants frequently make good masters. If your master is really hard, unreasonable and cruel, there isno way so likely for you to convince him of it, as always to obey his commands, and try to serve him, andtake care of his interest, and try to promote it all in your power. If you are proud and stubborn and alwaysfinding fault, your master will think the fault lies wholly on your side, but if you are humble, and meek, and bear all things patiently, your master may think he is wrong, if he does not, his neighbours will be apt to seeit, and will befriend you, and try to alter his conduct. If this does not do, you must cry to him, who has thehearts of all men in his hands, and turneth them as the rivers of waters are turned.…You certainly do not believe, that there is a God, or that there is a Heaven or Hell, or you wouldnever trifle with them. It would make you shudder, if you heard others do it, if you believe them as much,as you believe any thing you see with your bodily eyes.I have heard some learned and good men say, that the heathen, and all that worshiped false Gods,never spoke lightly or irreverently of their Gods, they never took their names in vain, or jested with those

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