|The Rev. James Pennington|
Lemuel Haynes; Daniel Hand
Art from dedication posters at Silver Lake Conference Center
by Rev. John Van Epps
HARTFORD (07/26/2012) -- This month the United Black Christians are meeting at Faith UCC in Hartford. Our conference has a long history with African Americans.
The earliest black Congregational minister was Lemuel Haynes, ordained in Torrington in 1785. Dixwell Avenue church in New Haven and Faith UCC in Hartford both have roots as two of the earliest African American congregations in our country, both founded around 1830.
James Pennington was pastor of both churches, and he was involved in the support of the Amistad captives during their legal struggle for freedom in 1839. After their release from prison, he helped provide support to them in the early 1840s, including the desire of many of the Mendis to return to their homeland of Sierra Leone. To this end James Pennington founded the Union Missionary Society in Hartford in 1841, because the established missionary societies were not sufficiently anti-slavery. Two members of the Talcott Street church, as Faith was then called, were part of a team that went to Sierra Leone with many of the Mendis in the early 1840s.
Just a few years later, in 1846, this Union Missionary Society merged with several other groups to form the American Missionary Association. The AMA sent missionaries to teach and train underprivileged people in this country and abroad, especially blacks.
The AMA became especially active after the Civil War, founding over 500 schools and colleges to educate newly freed slaves. The AMA got a great financial boost when it received over a million dollars in the 1800s from Daniel Hand, who had been born in Madison and became a successful merchant in the South prior to the Civil War.
|Touchstones with History -- a monthly series from the Connecticut Conference UCC.|
There are still six colleges in the south founded by the American Missionary Association, and there are scholarships given to African Americans in memory of Daniel Hand.
To hear more about James Pennington and the AMA, come to the authorized ministers luncheon in October. The speaker will be Chris Becker, who recently published a biography of James Pennington.
The Rev. John Van Epps is Archivist of the Connecticut Conference, UCC.