Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lemuel Haynes- A Black Minute Man

Lemuel Haynes (1753 – 1833) was born of a white mother and an African father in Connecticut. He was abandoned as a baby and given into indentured servitude, raised by a Deacon, and educated at the home of the local minister. He joined the local militia in 1774 and saw battle at the siege of Boston, and Ticonderoga. He wrote a poem about the Battle of Lexington that was not published until 1985.

Lemuel Haynes is often compared to Phyllis Wheatley because of his patriotic poetry, including writing about George Washington. He wrote a treaty called “On the Illegality of Slave Keeping” which was also unpublished until the 1980s. He became a Congregational minister in Vermont in the 1780s. He was the first black man to serve as the pastor to a white congregation in Rutland, Vermont, where he remained for thirty years. He was given an honorary master of arts in 1804 by Middlebury College.

This week we celebrate another anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, celebrated in New England as Patriot’s Day. Ruth Bogin made Lemuel Haynes’s story known in her 1985 article in the William and Mary Quarterly with her article “’The Battle of Lexington’: A Patriotic Ballad by Lemuel Haynes” 3d Ser., 42, October 1985, pages 499-506.

Excerpts from
The Battle of Lexington

The Nineteenth Day of April last
We ever shall retain
As monumental of the past
Most bloody shocking Scene

Then Tyrants fill’d with horrid Rage
A Fatal Journey went
& Unmolested to engage
And slay the innocent…

At Lexington they did appear
Arrayd in hostile Form
And tho our Friends were peacefull there
Yet on them fell the Storm

Eight most unhappy Victims fell
Into the Arms of Death
Unpitied by those Tribes of Hell
Who curs’d them with with their Breath….

For more information about Lemuel Haynes:

Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems About Slavery, 1660- 1810 by James G. Basker, Yale University, 2002

Sketches of the life and character of the Rev. Lemuel Haynes, A. M.: for many years pastor of a church in Rutland, Vt., and late in Granville, New-York , by Timothy Mather Cooley (1837) available at Google Books.


Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. My early revolutionary war history lesson for the day. Thanks, sincerely thanks.

  2. Wonderful post...I always learn something new when I visit your blog.

  3. Thanks for this post. I hope to read more about Lemuel. Plus I too attended Middlebury in 1983.