Verse of the Day on Black Poetry Day 2020

October 17 is the birthday of Jupiter Hammon, the first person of African descent to publish a poem in America was born October 17, 1711.

Today’s blog post spotlights a special celebration. Although not recognized as a national holiday, October 17 is designated as Black Poetry Day. During this time, we celebrate poets of African American heritage and their contribution to the literary landscape of the nation and of the world. Why was this particular day selected for the celebration? For the answer we go back to America’s literary beginning and the “Father of Black Poetry.”

Jupiter Hammon, the first person of African descent to publish a poem in colonial America, was born on October 17, 1711. Publishing a literary work of any kind during this period was a remarkable accomplishment for anyone, but for a man born into slavery, writing and publishing “An Evening Thought” in 1761 was nothing short of a miracle.

Born on the estate of merchant Henry Lloyd of Oyster Bay, NY, Hammon was believed to have been a lay minister. As a devout Christian, he expressed his religious convictions in all of his poetry and prose. In addition to An Evening Thought, his works include “An Essay on the Ten Virgins,” 1779; “A Winter Piece,” 1782; “An Evening’s Improvement,” 1783; “An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York,” 1787. In 2013, a University of Texas at Arlington English professor, Cedric May, and his doctoral student, Julie McGowan, located an unpublished poem, “An Essay on Slavery,” handwritten by Hammon around 1786.


Today, October 17, 2020, is a special day of celebration for me as a Black poet strongly influenced by the Bible, and I think of Hammon as my literary forefather. Other than the Psalmist, David, no poet has influenced me more. I am revising and re-posting the Biblegate Software Verse of the Day for October 17, 2020, that comes from Psalm 25:14-15 and contains an original poem written in a similar manner as the poetry of Jupiter Hammon.


The passage is rendered this way in the Amplified Bible:


Psalm 25:14-15:


The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net.


The reference to “He teaches them his covenant” brings to mind an account whereby David extends a covenant of grace to the descendant of someone with whom David had previously established a covenant, his beloved friend, Jonathan. Here we find Mephibosheth, the only remaining descendent of Saul, whom David replaced as King of Israel. David’s response to the crippled son of his friend occurred in a place called LoDebar, recorded in 2 Samuel 9:6-7.


6 His name was Mephibosheth; he was Jonathan’s son and Saul’s grandson. When he came to David, he bowed low to the ground in deep respect. David said, “Greetings, Mephibosheth.”
Mephibosheth replied, “I am your servant.”
7 “Don’t be afraid!” David said. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!”


The following poem refers to this account and speaks of

The Power of Covenant


When covenant relationships are re-established,
you enter into a place of safety and kindness.
Apostle Eric L. Warren


To redeem, restore, and then supersede is God’s plan:
To see His faithfulness, examine this account:
God’s favor extended beyond any earthly amount
That can be measured or assessed by the mind of man:
Mephibosheth displays the power of covenant
To children’s children, to countless generations–
First to Israel, then extended to all nations,
God’s loving-kindness above and beyond abundant.
Covenants demonstrate the faithfulness of God.
Spiritual covenants supplant natural relationships,
Beyond the authority of all earthly kingships,
For we know that in truth, “Spirit is thicker than blood.”
From LoDebar–barren place of nothingness–
He takes us to abide in safety and loving-kindness.

We seal our blog entry for today with “Covenant Song” by Caedmon’s Call:

On Black Poetry Day and every day, may we never forget God’s covenant made to His people.

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4 Responses to “Verse of the Day on Black Poetry Day 2020”

  1. Johari Says:

    I absolutely love this, Dr. J! It brings memories of time under your tutelage in the world of poetry flooding back! We do all indeed owe a debt to Mr. Jupiter Hammon. And we owe a debt to you! Salute…

    • Dr. J Says:

      Thanks for your kind words. As you know Hammon means so much to me, and I love to let people know about his contribution to African American Literature and to me, personally.

  2. wilkersonj59gmailcom Says:

    Praise the Lord God for this day and for the ones that God use to make this day year’s ago.

  3. Dr. J Says:

    Thanks for your comments, my Good Brother. I appreciate your encouragement and support.

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