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Allegany County
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James Pembroke / James W. C. Pennington

James Pembroke / James Pennington Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


James Pembroke was born a slave on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and sent by his owner, Frisby Tilghman, to Rockland, south of Hagerstown in Washington County. There Jim learned the skills of a blacksmith.

He escaped from slavery on October 28, 1827, going first to Pennsylvania, and later moving to New York and Connecticut. He became a minister and changed his name to James W. C. Pennington.

As the first black pastor of New Haven’s Dixwell Avenue Church, he attempted to obtain a Yale education to receive a ministerial license. Yale refused to allow him to enroll in the seminary or take books from the library, but did allow him to audit classes, and this way he obtained the educational requirements to be licensed as a Congregational minister. He was also an influential abolitionist.

In his 1849 autobiography The Fugitive Blacksmith, Or Events in the History of James W.C. Pennington he wrote:

My feelings are always outraged when I hear [ministers] speak of "kind masters", "Christian masters", "the mildest form of slavery", "well fed and clothed slaves," as extenuations of slavery; I am satisfied they either mean to pervert the truth, or they do not know what they say. The being of slavery, its soul and body, lives and moves in the chattel principle, the property principle, the bill of sale principle; the cart-whip, starvation, and nakedness, are its inevitable consequences to a greater or less extent, warring with the dispositions of men...


The full text of Pennington's autobiography can be found at The Fugitive Blacksmith; or, Events in the History of James W. C. Pennington, Pastor of a Presbyterian Church, New York, Formerly a Slave in the State of Maryland, United States

More on Pennington can be found in Dean Herrin's article From Slave to Abolitionist: James W.C. Pennington of Washington County, Maryland

The advertisement was placed in the Hagerstown Torch Light and Public Advertiser by Frisby Tilghman, November 1827. A February 1829 advertisement also offered a reward of $200. A microfilm of the newspaper is available in the Washington County Free Library.

See also With hope of being free, James Pennington fled Rockland estate, Herald-Mail, April 11, 2011.


Collection Location:
Washington County, Maryland

African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.

Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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