James W.C. Pennington
James Pembroke was born a slave on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. When his master died, he became the property of his son, Frisby Tilghman, who moved to Rockland, Washington County in western Maryland. There James learned the trades of brickmaker and blacksmith. On October 28, 1827, he left a job in Hagerstown to escape to the North, traveling toward Petersburg (now called York Springs), Pennsylvania.
After moving to[New York City],from Pennsylvania in 1828, where he changed his name to James W.C. Pennington due to the Quaker (Pennington) family that had taken him in and helped him with his education, and to mark his freedom. There he studied with a Presbyterian minister. He also participated in national anti-slavery conferences in the early 1830s in Philadelphia, meeting numerous prominent Quakers and other abolitionists.
He moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where he became connected to the community of free blacks. Working as a blacksmith, he gained permission to audit classes at Yale Divinity School. While he was not permitted to matriculate, his studies from 1834 to 1839 made him the first black man to attend classes at Yale and qualified him for ordination as a Congregational minister.
Pennington was called to serve in Hartford, where in 1840 he became the minister of Talcott Street Congregational Church (later called Faith Congregational Church), which had been organized by African Americans in 1826. He also started teaching children in the North African School, held at the church since 1830. The parents had been unhappy with the treatment of their children in the public system, and asked for separate schools. The North African School was supported by the Congregational Church and the South African School by a Methodist congregation. 
Becoming involved with the Connecticut Anti-Slavery Society through his connections at church, Pennington became president of the Connecticut group. In 1843 he was chosen as one of the state society's delegates to the world anti-slavery convention in Europe.
Pennington became interested in the case of the Africans who mutinied on the Amistad to try to escape slavery and return to their homeland. After they were freed following the United States Supreme Court case, Pennington helped organize the United Missionary Society to aid them. It raised funds for the Mendis' return to Sierra Leone, a British colony in Africa. The money raised also supported American missionary efforts there. Later this organization evolved into the American Missionary Association, with which Pennington also worked.
In the late 1840s, Pennington lobbied to gain suffrage for black men in Connecticut, but was unsuccessful although considerable support had been gained in 1847. The minister challenged racism in the state, even while working on other national efforts and conventions.
He was recruited by a Presbyterian Church in New York, but found it difficult to work with a congregation of a church more closely affiliated with the South. Before the war, New York City had many people tied to the South in trade and close economic connections. After Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, requiring states to assist in the capture and return of fugitive slaves, he felt at risk in New York and returned to his smaller church in Hartford.
After the war, he went to Florida, where he served as an itinerant preacher and evangelist to black congregations.
Legacy and honors 
In 1849 the University of Heidelberg awarded Pennington an honorary doctorate of divinity.
- The Origin and History of the Colored People (1841), considered the first history of African Americans. He directly challenged published statements by former President Thomas Jefferson as to the "inferiority" of black people.
- The Fugitive Blacksmith (1849), his memoir, a slave narrative, was published first in London.
- Stacey Close, "James Pennington: A Voice for Freedom", article originally published in Connecticut Explored (formerly Hog River Journal), Vol. 11/ No. 1, Winter 2012/2013, hosted on Connecticut Historical Society, accessed 29 March 2013
- "James W.C. Pennington", Exploring Amistad website, accessed 29 March 2013
- James W. C. Pennington, 1807-1870, The Fugitive Blacksmith; "Summary", Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina, accessed 29 March 2013
- Judith Ann Schiff, "Pioneers", Yale Alumni Magazine, January/February 2006, Vol LXIX, No. 3.
- The Fugitive Blacksmith or, Events in the History of James W. C. Pennington, Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina
- James W.C. Pennington, Spartacus Educational:
- Works by James W. C. Pennington at Project Gutenberg
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