American literature is rich with works by Black writers, including 20th century greats Maya Angelou, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston and Alex Haley, among many others. But did you know that Black pioneers of American literature began publishing nearly 200 years earlier?
Learn about five Black writers who helped pave the way for hundreds of other great writers to make their voices — and that of the Black experience in America — heard.
Jupiter Hammon (1711-1806)
Born into slavery in New York, Jupiter Hammon had the unusual privilege of being educated along with the estate owner’s children and, later, working with the owner in his business ventures. Hammon began writing poetry and essays, and in 1760, he became the first Black American to have his work published. He was highly influential in the early Black American community, serving as a preacher and a writer during and after the American Revolution.
You can find out more about Hammon’s life and his work, which is still in print today.