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Slave to Abolitionist: James W. C. Pennington

There is one sin that slavery committed against me which I never can forgive. It robbed me of my
education; the injury is irreparable; I feel the embarrassment more seriously now than I ever did
before. It cost me two years' hard labor, after I fled, to unshackle my mind; it was three years before
I had purged my language of slavery's idioms; it was four years before I had thrown off the
crouching aspect of slavery........ James w.c. Pennington

Pennington soon left the Wrights, as Littlestown was too near the Maryland border , and he
eventually arrived in New York City, and the beginning of a long career as a minister, teacher,
abolitionist, writer, and international figure.

One historian has written that Pennington was "one of the most distinguished of all fugitives from
bondage," and another referred to him as "one of the most educated and literate black men of his

Pennington became a minister in Presbyterian churches in New York and Hartford, was elected
a delegate to several international abolition conventions, founded  the American Missionary Association, wrote in 1841 one of the first histories of Africans in America, lectured widely, led the struggle to desegregate New York City's public transit system, fought for the right of blacks to vote, and remained active in the Underground Railroad. In 1849, the University of Heidelberg awarded Pennington a Doctor of Divinity degree in honor of his achievements. His autobiography, also first published in 1849, has been called one of the ten most important slave narratives, and, as has been noted by literary historians, provided Mark Twain with several good ideas. The Fugitive Blacksmith went through three editions in eleven months, selling over 6,000 copies

This Information Provided By David Trask

Click Here For A Complete Story Of His Escape

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Sumimit An Artical
Summit An Artical
Littlestown 1827

James W. C. Pennington A Slave on the run, he was taken in by William and Phoebe Wright,
a local Littlestown Quaker family, and sheltered for six months.

William Wright was a former schoolmaster, and while Pennington stayed in Littlestown,
he began teaching Pennington how to read and write. As a slave, Pennington had spent
many Sundays in his blacksmith shop, secretly studying the writing in the daybook kept by
the shop's overseer.
He had even fashioned a crude steel pen and had made ink from berries to practice writing.
So he was an avid learner, and he always lamented what slavery had deprived him: