Firsthand accounts of American slavery are certainly a limited treasure. Any opportunity to read a description of what being subjected to the institution was like is not only hard to come by, but also a gem of African American history.
That's why a University of Texas at Arlington student was so delighted, when she discovered one of the earliest poems by Jupiter Hammon, the country's first published black writer.
Julie McCown, a doctoral student, found the poem while researching Hammon.
"It's both really exciting, but then it's also hard to believe," McCown said. "Who am I to happen across this?"
Hammon, who was born a slave in 1711 and owned by multiple generations of a family in Long Island, New York, is known for his 1787 essay "An Address To The Negroes Of The State Of New York" that includes the famous line: "If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being black, or for being slaves."
The poem Cown discovered, which is dated 1786, was buried in documents at the Manuscripts and Archives at Yale University Library in Connecticut, and was in immaculate condition.
It is a rare find among accounts of slavery in the United States. One letter from former slave Jordan Anderson, who was freed from a Tennessee plantation, is not only world-renowned and taught by historians, but it has also been praised as a masterpiece of satire.
UTA professor and expert on African-American literature, Cedrick May said he's sure there are more lost works by Hammon and others that could offer deeper perspective into the lives of American slaves.
"We know there's more," he said. "We know that Jupiter Hammon has at least one other lost poem that's out there, and there's a lot more out there by other African-Americans. I think it's really important to get that perspective on our history."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Julie McCown was a student at University of Texas. We regret this error.
Related on HuffPost:
In this May 3, 1963 file photo,a 17-year-old civil rights demonstrator, defying an anti-parade ordinance of Birmingham, Ala., is attacked by a police dog. Bill Hudson, an Associated Press photographer whose searing images of the civil rights era documented police brutality and galvanized the public, died Thursday, June 24, 2010 in Jacksonville, Fla. He was 77.
1968 Olympic Games, Mexico City, Mexico, Men's 200 Metres Final, USA gold medalist Tommie Smith (C) and bronze medalist John Carlos give the black power salute as an anti-racial protest as they stand on the podium with Australian silver medallist Peter Norman
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X waiting for an unspecified press conference on March 26, 1964.
Teenager Elizabeth Eckford (L) w. snarling white parents following as she is turned away fr. entering Central High School by Arkansas National Guardsmen under orders fr. Gov. Orval Faubus.
Left to right: George E.C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and James M. Nabrit following Supreme Court decision declaring segregation unconstitutional
Rosa Parks, right, is kissed by Coretta Scott King, as she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-violent Peace Prize in Atlanta, Jan. 14, 1980. Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus nearly 25 years ago, is the first woman to win the award. (AP Photo)
18th November 1968: Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900 - 2002) goes backstage to meet the Supremes, Engelbert Humperdinck, Frankie Howerd and Petula Clark after a Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium. The show is in aid of the Variety Artistes' Benevolent Fund. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)
US pop star and entertainer Michael Jackson performs with Sammy Davis Junior August 14, 1988 in Monaco. (Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images)
Betty Shabazz at her husband, Malcolm X's funeral in Hartsdale, New York in 1965.
In this May 25, 1965, file photo, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston, after dropping Liston with a short hard right to the jaw in Lewiston, Maine. (AP Photo/John Rooney, File)
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 27: Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem before a game with the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills prior to Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on January 27, 1991 in Tampa, Florida. The Giants won 20-19. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
In this January 1, 1945 photo, Lena Horne visits with the Tuskegee Airmen.
In this March 1, 1964, photo, heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, right, is shown with black muslim leader Malcolm X outside the Trans-Lux Newsreel Theater in New York, after viewing the screening of a film about Ali's title fight with Sonny Liston. (AP Photo/File)
Georgia native son, singer Ray Charles, rocks to the ovation he received from a joint session of the Georgia Legislature in Atlanta, March 7, 1979. The Assembly made his version of the song "Georgia On My Mind" the official state song after he sang it to the session. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly)
John H. Johnson, publisher of Jet and Ebony magazines, left, and actor Bill Cosby, center, join the Rev. Jesse Jackson at a benefit reception for Operation PUSH, in Chicago, Ill., on April 1, 1982. (AP Photo)
American singer Michael Jackson (1958 - 2009) is granted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles, 20th November 1984.
Day of Pilgrimage protest begins on December 5, 1955, with black Montgomery citizens walking to work, part of their boycott of buses in the wake of the Rosa Parks incident. (Photo by Grey Villet//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
In this Aug. 1922 file photo, Marcus Garvey is shown in a military uniform as the "Provisional President of Africa" during a parade on the opening day of the annual Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World at Lenox Avenue in Harlem, New York City. A century ago, Garvey helped spark movements from African nationalist independence to American civil rights to self-sufficiency in black commerce. Jamaican students in every grade from kindergarten through high school have began studying the teachings of the 1920-era black nationalist leader in a new mandatory civics program in schools across this predominantly black country of 2.8 million people. (AP Photo/File)
Los Angeles Lakers' Wilt Chamberlain, left, stands beside a backboard and hoop trophy that was presented to him after he became the all-time leading rebounder in NBA history, in Los Angeles, Jan. 31, 1972. (AP Photo)
Broadway was a snowstorm canyon as proud Manhattanites feted returned U.S. Olympic stars with a fleecy ticker tape parade in New York on Sept. 3, 1936. The fellow with the broad grin in the foreground is Jesse Owens, who won three gold medals and helped other athletes win another for the U.S. (AP Photo)
Black Nationalist ldr. Malcolm X at podium during rally w. others in bkgrd. Malcolm X was later assassinated on February 21, 1965, by members of the Nation of Islam.
At the funeral for slain Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, his wife, Myrlie Evers (second right), comforts their son, Darryl Kenyatta Evers, while daughter Reena Denise Evers (center, in white dress) wipes her own tears, Jackson, Mississippi, June 15, 1963.
1958: A Caucasian policeman speaks with African-American protesters during a sit-in at Brown's Basement Luncheonette, Oklahoma.
American actress Hattie McDaniel (1895 - 1952) with her Academy Award of Merit for Outstanding Achievement, circa 1945. McDaniel won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Mammy in 'Gone With The Wind', making her the first African-American to win an Academy Award.
The First Colored Senator and Representatives, in the 41st and 42nd Congress of the US. Top standing left to right: Robert C. De Large, M.C. of S. Carolina; and Jefferson H. Long, M.C. of Georgia. Seated, left to right: U.S. Senator H.R. Revels of Mississippi; Benj. S. Turner, M.C. of Alabama; Josiah T. Walls, M.C. of Florida; Joseph H. Rainy, M.C. of S. Carolina; and R. Brown Elliot, M.C. of S. Carolina. Lithograph by Currier and Ives, 1872.
Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton (1942 - 1989) (center) smiles as he raises his fist from a podium at the Revolutionary People's Party Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early September 1970.
Attendees at the Million Man March raise their hands in fists and peace/victory signs October 16, 1995 in Washington, DC. The purpose of the march was to galvanize men to respect themselves and others spiritually, morally, mentally, socially, politically and economically.
Anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela (C, L) and his wife Winnie raise fists upon Mandela's release from Victor Verster prison on February 11, 1990 in Paarl. AFP PHOTO ALEXANDER JOE