Thoughts on Jupiter Hammon
There are many interesting things one ought to consider when reading Jupiter Hammon’s works. Jupiter Hammon had a very interesting background. He, unlike many slaves, was given the opportunity to attend school. This is important because he writes eloquently. His writing abilities help him target a wide range of people. In “An Evening Thought” one can clearly see that Jupiter Hammon practically handcrafted and embedded complex ideas. On a superficial level, this work appears to simply be a religious writing. However, as we dive deeper into the writing we can begin to see how well aware and relevant Jupiter Hammon really was to his time. Phrases, like “Increase your Faith, do not repine: Awake ye every nation. Lord unto whom now shall we go, Or seek a safe Abode”, are religious but might also be a subtle reference to the civil conflicts taking place during that time period.
Some readers may not be familiar with the Judeo-Christian traditions or sacred texts. These readers may have difficulty understanding or grasping the language being used. Other readers, who have no difficulty understanding the imagery, may find this text repetitive. They might even think the repetition in the work resembles the beating of a dead horse! These two very distinct perspectives were very thought provoking. Why would a well-educated man use language which would either exclude non-believers or become excessively redundant, even for believers of the Faith? While this may be overlooked and dismissed as a simple negligence from Jupiter Hammon, I do not think this is the case.
As an educated African American slave, Jupiter Hammon was between two worlds. In one hand he was favored by the Lloyd family, while on the other hand he was part of the African American community. Jupiter Hammon’s background allowed him to be heard in both communities, which, for the time period was very noteworthy. This being the case, Jupiter Hammon’s challenge was to make his writing relevant two both worlds without being overly radical. By using religious themes Jupiter Hammon would be accepted by the white community. This was a central focus during the time period which would have been widely accepted. Religion in general is something that has always appealed to mankind because religion tends to provide some kind of explanation for the higher questions of life. Regardless of the religion chosen, religion in general provides a system of belief. This religious theme was also a way for Jupiter Hammon to make both slaves and slave owners come together on an even plane field. Slave owners are held accountable for unforgiving harsh treatments, which according to the Christian ideals are considered sinful, and slaves are encouraged to live a righteous spiritually aware life.
Jupiter Hammon was able to use his formal education and creative talents to reach out to these two different worlds. That is to say, Jupiter Hammon used his writings to grasp the attention of a wide variety of people. Having these different perspectives in mind, one can truly begin to appreciate Jupiter Hammon’s works as well has his merit.