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More should know the story of enslaved author, advocates say

Author Jupiter Hammon lived in slavery at the

Author Jupiter Hammon lived in slavery at the Joseph Lloyd Manor in Lloyd Harbor. Credit: Randee Daddona

It’s a name that may not be familiar in Long Island history, but if advocates at Preservation Long Island have anything to do about it, that will soon change.

An initiative to highlight the life of Jupiter Hammon (ca. 1711-1806), the first African American author whose work was published during his lifetime while enslaved by the Lloyd family of Lloyd Harbor, is set to kick off this year. Hammon lived and wrote at the Joseph Lloyd Manor House, completed in 1768, which was the seat of a 3,000-acre agricultural estate.

The effort, which was supposed to start this spring, has been pushed back because of COVID-19.

“We’ve had an interpretation of his life at the Joseph Lloyd Manor for years, but it’s been about 20 years since we’ve approached it again,” said Darren St. George, public programs and education director for Preservation Long Island. “In that time we’ve realized that the story of Jupiter Hammon deserves to be a lot more robust.”

Cold Spring Harbor-based Preservation Long Island is a nonprofit organization that works to raise awareness, appreciation and support for the protection, advocacy, education and the stewardship of historic sites and collections.

The Jupiter Hammon Project aims to expand interpretive and educational programming at the 18th-century Long Island manor house owned and operated by Preservation Long Island. The house hosts exhibits and is open to the public.

The project will include three public roundtable events bringing together scholars, residents, descendant communities, and other diverse stakeholders across Long Island to discuss Hammon and the legacy of enslavement on Long Island.

Advocates say the discussions aim to develop a new interpretive direction for the manor that encourages responsible, rigorous and relevant encounters with Long Island’s history of enslavement and its impact on society today.

The hope is that the project will also provide educational content for the development of revised school curricula and serve as a model approach to program development for other sites of enslavement in the region, St. George said.

Hammon’s life and writings offer an exceptionally nuanced view of slavery and freedom on Long Island before and after the American Revolution, preservation officials said. His works are especially significant because most literature and historical documents from the 18th century were not written from an enslaved person’s point of view. Consequently, Hammon’s writings provide powerful insights into the experience of the enslaved, as well as the social and moral conflicts slavery raised in the newly formed United States, preservation officials said.

“We always concentrate ... in history on the rich and famous people and their contributions to society,” Huntington Town Historian Robert Hughes. “This is a good opportunity to celebrate contributions by those who are not rich or famous.”

Irene Moore, chairwoman of the Town of Huntington African American Historic Designation Council, said the initiative will be an important reminder that African American history is really American history.

“Not only should African Americans know about Jupiter Hammon’s contributions to society, all American should be aware of his notable contributions,” she said.

2020 Jupiter Hammon Project roundtables

Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn

Roundtable 1: Long Island in Black Atlantic World: Why did Long Island have one of the largest enslaved populations in the North during the 17th and 18th centuries?

Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead

Roundtable 2: The Voice of Jupiter Hammon: What do Jupiter Hammon’s writings tell us about him as an educated individual surviving within the structure of enslavement?

Joseph Lloyd Manor in Lloyd Harbor

Roundtable 3: Confronting Slavery at Joseph Lloyd Manor: How can Preservation Long Island best engage Joseph Lloyd Manor visitors with Jupiter Hammon’s story, the region’s history of enslavement, and segregation on Long Island today?

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