Hartford Seminary

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American to the Backbone: The Life of James W. C. Pennington

American to the Backbone is the biography of James W.C. Pennington, a leader in the pre-Civil War abolition movement. When he escaped from slavery at age 19, Pennington was illiterate but he taught himself Latin and Greek and became the first black student at Yale only seven years later. Pastor of the Talcott Street Church in Hartford from 1840-1848, Pennington wrote the first black history, organized the first Black missionary society, and represented Connecticut at an international convention on slavery in London. Later he served in New York and helped integrate the New York City street car system. As a leader in the abolition movement, Pennington and his colleagues argued that they too were part of the American dream, ?American to the backbone,?and helped reshape America?s vision of itself.

Christopher L. Webber, a graduate of Princeton University and the General Theological Seminary in New York (with two earned degrees and an honorary doctorate from the latter), is the author of a number of books ranging from a guidebook for Vestries to a study of Christian marriage. He has also written hymns included in several major hymnals in the United States and Canada. His most recent books are American to the Backbone, a biography of James W.C. Pennington, a remarkable pre-Civil War abolition leader, Welcome to Christian Faith, an introduction to Christian life and teaching, Beyond Beowulf, the first-ever sequel to the old English saga, Beowulf, and A Year with American Saints, co-authored with Lutheran Pastor G. Scott Cady.

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