Pennington Lecture Background

The Pennington Lecture is offered in the spirit of the courageous Black community of 19th century Hartford for the promotion of our Black and multi-racial Hartford community today. Inspired by four young Black students, the lecture series seeks to inform, inspire, and ignite our passion to promote a just, racism-free society, one in which the human flourishing that is the heartbeat of the arts and humanities thrives and endures.

In the spring of 2020, four students conducted a project for the Liberal Arts Action Lab, a community action research partnership between Trinity College and Capital Community College. Aliyah Freeman-Johnson, Julian Hogan, and Armani Parnther from Capital, and Mercy Unoh from Trinity, set out to create an online exhibit on the history of the Talcott Street Congregational Church and to propose strategies for the Hartford Heritage Project at Capital to bring the remarkable history of the first Black church and school for Black children in Hartford out of the shadows and into the lived experience of students, staff, and faculty at Capital Community College. The project was proposed jointly by Capital’s Hartford Heritage Project and the Hartford Public Library’s Hartford History Center. They produced an online exhibit that is available on the Liberal Arts Action Lab website.

Shocked to learn this center of Hartford’s Black community in the 19th century is currently an unmarked space in a defunct parking garage, the students set about researching its history in published material and local archives.

From the list of recommendations proposed by Aliyah, Julian, Armani, and Mercy, the college applied for a $150,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to put three of them into action: an exhibit on the Talcott Street Church and School, new curriculum for students to encounter this remarkable history of Black community in Hartford, and an annual lecture named after the Reverend James WC Pennington that brings prominent speakers to Hartford to address issues of race and justice.


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