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Among the expected glories of the Constitution, next to the abolition of Slavery was that of Rum… George Clymer

American to the backbone : the life of James W.C. Pennington, the fugitive slave who became one of the first black abolitionists  Christopher L. Webber  New York : Pegasus Books, 2011  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing.  493 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., map, ports. ; 24 cm.   Bibliography note: Includes bibliographical references (p. [443]-479) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The incredible story of a forgotten hero of nineteenth century New York City who was a former slave, Yale scholar, minister, and international leader of the Antebellum abolitionist movement. At the age of 19, scared and illiterate, James Pennington escaped from slavery in 1827 and soon became one of the leading voices against slavery prior to the Civil War.

Just ten years after his escape, Pennington was ordained to the ministry of the Congregational Church after studying at Yale. Moving to Hartford, he became involved with the Amistad captives and founded the first African American mission society. He traveled to England as a delegate to a world Anti-Slavery Convention and served also as a delegate to an international peace convention.

Later he traveled widely in Britain and on the continent to gain support for the American abolition movement. He was so respected by European audiences that the University of Heidelberg awarded him an honorary doctorate, making him the first person of African descent to receive such a degree. 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 monumental bus ride, Pennington challenged segregated seating in New York City street cars. He was arrested, but eventually vindicated when the New York State Supreme Court ordered the cars to be integrated. American to the Backbone brings to life this fascinating, forgotten pioneer, who helped lay the foundation for the contemporary civil rights revolution and inspire generations of future leaders.

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