James W.C. Pennington

Born a slave, James William Charles Pennington (1809-71) was a blacksmith until he ran away to Pennsylvania in his early twenties. After spending several months studying under a Quaker teacher who took him in, Pennington moved to New York City, where he continued his education. Eventually, he studied theology and became a pastor. Pennington kept his status as a runaway slave secret until the late 1840s when he published his autobiography, The Fugitive Blacksmith. In 1850, he went to Europe until Scottish friends purchased his freedom the following year. From 1847 through 1855, Pennington served as pastor of Shiloh Presbyterian Church, one of the most respected African-American Presbyterian congregations in the United States. In addition to his involvement in the American Anti-Slavery Society, which he helped found in 1833, Pennington was an advocate of African-American abolitionist and religious organizations. An evangelical Christian, Pennington tied his work as an abolitionist to his Christian commitment. He also founded the Union Missionary Society, which later became the American Missionary Association. Pennington performed the marriage ceremony of Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray after Douglass's escape from slavery in 1838. R.J.M. Blackett, Beating Against the Barriers: The Lives of Six Nineteenth-Century Aftro-Americans (Ithaca, NY, 1986), 52-53; Herman E. Thomas, James W. C. Pennington, African American Churchman and Abolitionist (New York, 1995), 3-27, 137-38, 171; Waldo E. Martin, Jr., The Mind of Frederick Douglass (Chapel Hill, 1984), 14-15; Freeman, "Free Negro in New York City," 405; NCAB, 14:307; DAB, 7: 441-42.

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