Talcott Street Church Project

Reverend James W.C. Pennington

Internationally Recognized Activist, Reverend, Writer, and Abolitionist

Rev. James W.C. Pennington was born in 1807. He was born a slave in Maryland to Tighlin Frisby after Frisby’s father passed away. He and his siblings and mother lived on one plantation and his father, Basil, on another.

He had witnessed brutal beatings both on his father and other slaves.

James had enough after his own savage punishment and on October 22, 1827, he escaped to freedom along the Underground Railroad, a harrowing journey in which he was captured more than once before finally making it to Pennsylvania.

After taking shelter with a Quaker farmer who gave James his first reading lessons, he made his journey up north and advanced quickly in his ability to read, write and speak of God’s message.

Soon after becoming a pastor, he was called on to officiate the wedding of Frederick and Anna Douglass. He later attended Yale Divinity School for four years as a non-matriculated student, the first black man to attend.

He served as reverend at Talcott Street Church from 1840-1847, 1853, 1856-1857. He became a well known name in the community and abroad, preaching in various places in the United States and Europe. Pennington wrote his biography, The Fugitive Blacksmith, Or Events in the History of James W.C. Pennington, in 1849.

Pennington got personally involved, as did the Talcott church; some members of the church, including Augustus Washington, who was the headmaster/ teacher of the Talcott Church Black School, followed the Africans back to Africa.