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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Jupiter Hammon: First Published Poet

We continue (not conclude) honoring our literary legends. One of the first black poets was a gentleman named Jupiter Hammon who has the distinction of being the first published African-American in 1760 when one of his poems appeared in print. He lived until 1806. The resources below give a good detail of his life and a bit of a criticism of the man’s views, if not only his work. I will leave it up to you to decide and finishing it off, is Mr. Hammon’s poem recited in the video below.

Though assertions that Phillis Wheatley was America’s first published African-American poet continue to surface, that assertion has been discredited for many years. In fact, a slave by the name of Jupiter Hammon is credited with that title.

http://poetry.about.com/od/18thcpoets/a/hammon.htm

Jupiter Hammon (October 17, 1711 – before 1806) was a Black poet who became the first African-American published writer in America when a poem appeared in print in 1760. He was a slave his entire life, and the date of his death is unknown. He was living in 1790 at the age of 79, and died by 1806. Hammon was a devout Christian, and is considered one of the founders of African American literature.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter_Hammon

Black Writers of America: A Comprehensive Anthology;

His poetry reflects a strong influence of Methodism and the Wesleyan Revival that swept America in the middle of the eighteenth century. This is particularly evident in the hymnal qualities of his verse. In fact, because all of his poetizing is on religious themes, some critics have speculated that Hammon may have been a preacher first and a poet only secondarily.

A strong religious bent is evident in the poem to Phillis Wheatley when, overwhelmed by religious fervor, the poet expresses joy that

God’s tender mercy brought thee here;
Tossed o’er the raging main

Could it be that Jupiter Hammon, Black man of God and a slave, really did not know how far removed “God’s tender mercy” was from a slave ship? Or could it be that he was so removed from worldly woe and attuned to anticipated heavenly joy that slavery, one of the world’s major woes, no longer existed for him? Slavery was of this earth, and Jupiter Hammon longed for salvation on high. Indeed, in “An Evening Thought” the word “salvation” occurs on every stanza, giving some hint of the absorption in Christian otherworldliness that can render a man forgetful of his earthly state.

But his religious fervor seriously impaired his poetry. There is in Jupiter Hammon’s verse none of the felicity of thought and verbal imagery found in Phillis Wheatley’s poetry. Her subject matter is of broader range, and her classical training disciplined her to take a more balanced view of Man, God, and Nature.

Jupiter Hammon’s last published work was his “Address to the Negroes of the State of New York.” His brief comments on slavery in this address serve to confirm the view that, for him, slavery was an endurable and acceptable institution. Better to accept enslavement on earth and receive a Christian crown in the Hereafter than lose one’s soul fighting against slavery. Thus he urged acceptance of the slavery system, although he did express regret that the Black veterans of the Revolutionary War were not rewarded for patriotic efforts with freedom from bondage.

In the final analysis, Jupiter Hammon’s religion was an opiate that dulled him to the world’s evil ways. Instead of giving him a revolutionary social vision, it filled him with penitential cries. And his poetry is esthetically anemic and almost stifling in its repetitive religiosity.

Note: Although the editors of the anthology seem harsh of Mr. Hammon’s life and point of view, the following poems are for you to decide whether the points were made.

AN EVENING THOUGHT: SALVATION BY CHRIST WITH PENETENTIAL CRIES

Salvation comes by Christ alone,
The only Son of God;
Redemption now to every one,
That loves his holy Word.

Dear Jesus, give thy spirit now,
Thy grace to every Nation,
That han’t the Lord to whom we bow
The Author of Salvation.

Dear Jesus, unto Thee we cry,
Give us the Preparation;
Turn not away thy tender Eye;
We seek thy true Salvation.

Lord, hear our penitential Cry;
Salvation from above;
It is the Lord that doth supply,
With his Redeeming Love.

Dear Jesus, by thy precious Blood,
The World Redemption have:
Salvation now comes from the Lord,
He being thy captive slave.

Dear Jesus, let the nations cry,
And all the people say,
Salvation comes from Christ on high,
Haste on Tribunal Day.

We cry as Sinners to the Lord,
Salvation to obtain;
It is firmly fixed, his holy Word,
Ye shall not cry in vain.

Lord, Turn our dark benighted Souls;
Give us a true Motion,
And let the Hearts of all the World,
Make Christ their Salvation.

Lord, unto whom now shall we go,
Or seek a safe abode?
Thou hast the Word, Salvation Too:
The only Son of God.

“Ho! every one that hunger hath,
Or pineth after me,
Salvation be thy leading Staff,
To set the Sinner free.”

Dear Jesus, unto Thee we fly;
Depart, depart from Sin,
Salvation doth at length supply,
The glory of our King.

Come, ye Blessed of the Lord,
Salvation greatly given;
o, turn your hearts, accept the Word,
Your souls are fit for Heaven.

Dear Jesus, we now turn to thee,
Salvation to obtain;
Our Hearts and Souls do meet again,
To magnify thy Name.

Come, holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove,
The Object of our Care;
Salvation doth increase our Love;
Our hearts hath felt thy fear.

Now Glory be to God on High,
Salvation high and low;
And thus the Soul on Christ rely,
To Heaven surely go.

Come, Blessed Jesus, Heavenly Dove
Accept Repentance here;
Salvation give, with tender Love;
Let us with Angels share.

AN ADDRESS TO MISS PHILLIS WHEATLEY, ETHIOPIAN POETESS

An address to Miss Phillis Wheatly, Ethiopian Poetess, in Boston, who came from Africa at eight years of age, and soon became acquainted with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

O, come, you pious youth! adore
The wisdom of thy God,
In bringing thee from distant shore,
To learn His holy word,

Thou mightst been left behind,
Amidst a dark abode;
God’s tender mercy still combined,
Thou hast the holy word.

Fair Wisdom’s ways are paths of peace,
And they that walk therein,
Shall reap the joys that never cease,
And Christ shall be their King.

God’s tender mercy brought thee here;
Tossed o’er the raging main;
In Christian faith thou hast a share,
Worth all the gold of Spain.

While thousands tossed by the sea,
And others settled down,
God’s tender mercy set thee free
From dangers that come down.

That thou a pattern still might be,
To youth of Boston town,
The blessed Jesus set thee free
From every sinful wound.

The blessed Jesus, who came down,
Unveiled his sacred face,
To cleanse the soul of every wound
And give repenting grace.

That we poor sinners may obtain
The pardon of our sin,
Dear Blessed Jesus, now constrain
And bring us flocking in.

Come, you, Phillis, now aspire,
And seek the living God,
So step by step thou mayst go higher
Till perfect in the word.

While thousands moved to distant shore,
And others left behind,
The blessed Jesus still adore;
Implant this in thy mind.

Thou has left the heathen shore;
Through mercy of the Lord,
Among the heathen live no more;
Come magnify thy God.

I pray the living God may be,
The shepherd of thy soul;
His tender mercies still are free,
His mysteries to unfold.

Thou, Phillis, when thou hunger hast,
Or pantest for thy God,
Jesus Christ is thy relief
Thou hast the holy word.

The bounteous mercies of the Lord
Are hid beyond the sky,
And holy souls that have His word
Shall taste them when they die.

These bounteous mercies are from God,
The merits of His Son;
The humble soul that loves His word
He chooses for his own.

Come, dear Phillis, be advised
To drink Samaria’s flood;
There is nothing more that shall suffice
But Christ’s redeeming blood.

While thousands muse with earthly toys,
And range about the street,
Dear Phillis, seek for Heaven’s joys,
Where we do hope to meet.

When God shall send his summons down
And number saints together,
Blessed angels chant (triumphant sound),
Come live with me forever.

The humble soul shall fly to God,
And leave the things of time,
Start forth as ‘twere at the first word,
To taste things more divine.

Behold! the soul shall waft away,
Whene’er we come to die,
And leave its cottage made of clay,
In twinkling of an eye.

Now glory be to the Most High,
United praises given,
By all on earth, incessantly,
And all the host of heaven.

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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Next Generation: Lift Every Voice and Sing

All this month, we here at the Project have posted James Wheldon Johnson’s ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’. Now you may know it as the Negro National Anthem, but we argue it’s also a song that we now will never replace the Star Spangled Banner, but the goals of this tune to ‘let us march on till victory is won’ reflects the pain, heartaches and struggles our ancestors and if we’re old enough, our parents and grandparents had to face. Most passed on before they had the opportunity to witness their labors were not in vain. This generation and all others after it must continue the good fight as tribute to those who have left us, but also left a legacy that impacts our way of life even to this day.

The following clips are of young people singing this song from their hearts. It is our hope at the Project it will also inspire them to do wonderful and substantive achievements in their lives as well. Take care.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Excerpts from The Emergence of African American Literary Traditions

All month long we have profiled some, but not all, of our legends of literature. From the pen of author Phyllis M. Belt-Beyan comes a book that from the preview pages shows once again, our passion for literature. Please take a moment to glance through the pages and hopefully buy this title to find out how our ancestors establish their own legacy through the written and spoken word.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Balm in Gilead, Inc: Lift Every Voice and Sing

This week’s selection of Lift Every Voice and Sing (known as the Negro National Anthem) is sung by The Balm in Gilead, Inc. Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Alexandre Dumas: His tales come to life

In the last post, mention was made of French author Alexandre Dumas’s life and literary works. You are invited to read the post before this. However, this entry reflects on his work in cinema. There have been over 200 motion pictures regarding Mr. Dumas’s romantic novels but here are a few clips to show over time, these timeless classics remain with us no matter which generation is around.

As authors, don’t we wish our novels and stories can be THIS good? 🙂 Hopefully, we’ll appreciate The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo just as those individuals or each race and creed have over the centuries in print.

By the way, a new Three Musketeers movie will be on screens near you later this year.

Take care.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Alexandre Dumas: A True Literary Legend

Most people over the age of 35 may not be familiar with this famous French author. His works have inspired other writers such as Jules Verne, Juan Gomez-Jurado, Robert E. Howard and Stephen King. But if you’ve read The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers, then you’ve certainly heard of Alexandre Dumas.

Born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie on July 24, 1802, Dumas was a historian, correspondent, playwright, novelist and magazine writer. His birthplace was “in the village of Villers-Cotterêts, just outside of Paris, France, the third child born to Marie Louise Labouret, daughter of an inn keeper, and Thomas Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie (1762-1806) a military General under Napoléon. Alexandres’ grandfather, the Marquis Alexandre Davy de La Pailleterie (1710-1786) married a slave he fell in love with in San Domingo (now Haiti) named Marie Louise Césette Dumas (d.1772). Thomas took her last name when he himself enlisted with the French army. After a falling out with Napoléon due to his criticism of the Egypt campaign, and a long imprisonment which left him in poor health, Thomas returned returned home a broken man with no pension. After his death the family was left in dire financial straits. Alexandre’s mother set her best efforts to providing an education for her son although he proved to be less than enthusiastic about it. He attended Abbé Grégoire’s school before finding employment with a local notary to help support the family.”
(Source: http://www.online-literature.com/dumas/)

Dumas’s widely known works The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers are only a couple of this great man’s respected works. For those of you not aware of The Count of Monte Cristo, it is an adventure novel written in 1844 detailed as: “a huge literary and financial success for Dumas père. Through protagonist Edmond Dantès the reader is taken along his journey of a wrongful trial, his search for justice, revenge, and ultimately riches, forgiveness, and love.” (Source: http://www.online-literature.com/dumas/)

The Three Musketeers began as a serial in a newspaper, is a story about a gentleman named D’ Artagnan who wishes to become a musketeer like his friends Aramis, Porthos and Athos. To clarify, a musketeer is basically “an early modern type of infantry soldier equipped with a musket. Musketeers were an important part of early modern armies, particularly in Europe.” (Wikipedia). Along the way, D’Artagnan has adventures while learning what it means to be “all for one, one for all”, a constant motto he and his musketeers would cry out.

Of course, the issue of race was a part of Dumas’s life and one he could not escape from. He wrote Georges in 1843, a novel that “addressed some of the issues of race and the effects of colonialism. All his life he referred to himself as a negro.” In the novel plot itself, it “concerns the life of Georges, the son of a wealthy mulatto plantation owner named Munier, in the Île de France (modern day Mauritius). While part-black, Georges appears to be very light-skinned, if not white. As a child, Georges witnesses an attempt by the British to gain control of the island. Because George’s father is a mulatto, the other plantation owners refuse to fight alongside him. Instead, George’s father leads the blacks and delivers a crushing blow against the invading forces. Refusing to acknowledge that a man of colour saved them, M. Malmedie and the other white plantation owners ignore the accomplishment.” The novel also deals with identity crisis, slavery and other issues of that time.

Dumas had a response for a gentleman who challenged his mixed race background: “My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.” Even then, Dumas found respect difficult. “Although his books were revered by his contemporaries, he was often mocked for his colour. “In caricatures or in sketches he was always presented with big lips, with Afro hair, as a sort of monster.” “ (Source: http://www.africaresource.com : Alexandre Dumas the Black-Frenchman: France Attempt to Steal Black History Creates Row)

Dumas passed away on December 5, 1870. Again, the measure of his works are still being felt today. Not only are his works translated in hundreds of languages, but over 200 motion pictures as well. In recent years, French President Jacques Chirac acknowledged the racism in Dumas’s lifetime proclaiming, “a wrong had now been righted with Alexandre Dumas enshrined alongside fellow authors Victor Hugo and Voltaire. “ The statement following a ceremony on November 2002 where his buried remains had been exhumed and “in a televised ceremony, his new coffin, draped in a blue-velvet cloth and flanked by four men costumed as the Musketeers: Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan, was transported in a solemn procession to the Panthéon of Paris, the great mausoleum where French luminaries are interred.”

Perhaps it can be mentioned that Alexandre Dumas, although not recognized today or as often, is one of our cherished literary legends who by the power of his pen used his gift to create tales for generations. However, it is that struggle of his claimed heritage that will always be debated even in the 21st Century. Case in point: the controversy surrounding French actor Gerard Depardieu portraying the author in a movie entitled L’Autre Dumas, which has received the ire of “Non-white celebrities, some Dumas experts and black organisations are angry because they say that the producers missed a chance to celebrate France’s ethnic diversity and remind the world of the writer’s part black origins. “There is a mechanism of permanent discrimination by silence,” said Jacques Martial, a black actor who made his name playing a television police detective. Patrick Lozès, President of the Council of Black Associations (CRAN) wondered: “In 150 years time, could the role of Barack Obama be played in a film by a white actor with a fuzzy wig? Can Martin Luther King be played by a white?””

More details on the movie and the harsh reaction to Depardieu in this link. Also in this BBC article, more criticism found here.

It is understandable while Dumas may be a national literary legend to the French, it is part of the same issue President Chirac admitted during the ceremony and one which Dumas addressed himself. While this may be discussed at a later date, it would behoove all of us to know that Dumas was proud of his heritage and we in the present time, should recognize that. While Mr. Depardieu certainly had his right to play Dumas the man, the reality and problems Dumas faced back in the 18th Century are still constant even now in America. Unless that is properly addressed and discussed, we’ll always have this debate. Always. Judging by the pictures and drawings of Mr. Dumas, it is believed we can all come up with our own conclusions which ethnicity he shared.

Mr. Dumas had a son who also became a successful author. Alexandre Dumas, fils (1824-1895) was also a dramatist and the writer of The Lady of the Camellias (Camille) (1848) and L’affaire Clemenceau (The Clemenceau Case) (1867). It’s good to know Alexandre Dumas, fils carried on the literary legacy like his father.

Alexandre Dumas left an impressive body of work, the following links will prove that. While we celebrate our American literary forefathers, we should also recognize the achievements through print of our famous writers of long ago as well. Whether it be Dumas or Douglass (who lived during this time), each of them dealt with the problems that arose because of their race, yet continued to produce great works for all of us to enjoy and be entertained.

Let’s remember that it’s “all for one, one for all.”

Wikipedia Dumas entry

KnowledgeRush.com

The meaning of “All for One, One for All”

Wikipedia entry on Alexandre Dumas, fils

Detailed Dumas biography

CNN Black History Month mention

Amazon: Alexandre Dumas

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Acappela: Lift Every Voice and Sing

This week performing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ is the group Acappella with their sweet, spiritual version of the song. This is certainly worth watching, hope you agree. Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 
 
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