American to the Backbone

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Author: 
Christopher L. Webber, SKS '49
Publication Year: 
2012

The incredible story of a forgotten hero of nineteenth century America— James Pennington, a former slave who became a Yale scholar, congregational pastor, and international leader of the Antebellum abolitionist movement. As he fought for equal rights in America, Pennington’s voice was not limited to the preacher’s pulpit. He wrote the first-ever “History of the Colored People” as well as a careful study of the moral basis for civil disobedience, which would be echoed decades later by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. More than a century before Rosa Parks took her transformational bus ride, Pennington challenged segregated seating in New York City street cars. He was beaten and arrested, but eventually vindicated when the New York State Supreme Court ordered the cars to be integrated. Leading white Americans attempted to define their country in mono-racial terms and many black Americans emigrated to Liberia or Haiti, but Pennington insisted “I am an American to the backbone” and am entitled to the same rights as anyone else.

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More of Christopher Webber's books may be found on his webpage

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