Language and Literature in the African American Imagination

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Dilemma of the Dutiful Servant:
The Poetry of Jupiter Hammon

Lonnell E. Johnson

Since the First Century when Paul wrote of the paradox of freedom and servitude, Christians have been continually striving to understand the oxymoronic relationship of enslavement and freedom expressed in the Epistle to the Corinthians: "For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant (I Corinthians 7:22)." In 1520 in a tract "On the Freedom of a Christian Man," Martin Luther ( 1957:7) wrestles with the paradox of freedom in Christian service, whereby he declares: "A Christian man is free lord over all . . . [yet] dutiful servant to all." Two centuries later Jupiter Hammon, the first known African American to publish a literary work, exemplifies the same duality. Indeed, Hammon embodies the dilemma, since he is not only a Christian but enslaved in eighteenth-century Century America.

Born in 1711, Jupiter Hammon has achieved a place in African American literature with the publishing of "An Evening Thought (Salvation by Christ, With Penetential [sic] Cries)," a broadside printed on Christmas Day, 1760. Other works include "An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatly' [sic]" ( 1778); two prose pieces "Essay on the Ten Virgins" ( 1779), a copy of which is yet to surface, and "An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York" ( 1787); "A Winter Piece," which includes "A Poem for Children with Thoughts in Death" ( 1782); and "An Evening's Improvement," to which is added "A Dialogue Entitled the Kind Master and the Dutiful Servant" ( 1783).

The poetry of Hammon reveals a devoutly religious man who assimilates the predominant religious views of colonial New England. Because of this he has been accused of being too conciliatory in his attitude toward enslavement. While he does not always speak out against


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Language and Literature in the African American Imagination
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 214

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?