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Planted (The Penningtons Investigate) (Volume 1)

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The publication of Pennington’s Textbook of the Origin and History, Etc. Etc. of the Colored People in 1841 served as a further challenge to notions of African American inferiority. He challenged assumptions about the curse of Ham on Africans and also responded to Thomas Jefferson’s arguments about African inferiority. According to historian Donald Spivey, Pennington spent a great deal of his time condemning racism in Hartford. Pennington found whites in the city to be apathetic or hostile toward African American residents. For a short time, the minister published two anti-slavery newspapers (The Northern Star and Clarksonian). The decline of the Colored American and need for African Americans to have a voice of their own in the struggle against slavery and racism prompted his move into publishing. While Pennington understood the importance of the Liberator, published by William Lloyd Garrison, he knew that freedom came with the ability to do for self. Both papers played important roles in the struggle, though both suffered from financial difficulties.

Although the struggle for the right to vote failed in the 1840s, Pennington considered it his duty to confront and criticize ministers about racism within the abolitionist movement and clergy leadership. He reported that it was not unusual for white abolitionists to sit down beside him at meeting, only to move to another seat once they recognized the color of his skin. As for white ministers in Connecticut, he chastised them at a meeting for their failure to accept African American pastors fully in the brotherhood of ministers. In 1843, his criticism appears to have led to his acceptance in the Hartford Central Association, an organization of congregational institutions run by ministers. By 1844, Pennington presented a sermon outline in West Avon and later preached in the Farmington Congregational Church. The latter returned the favor when its pastor, Reverend Noah Porter, delivered the sermon at Pennington’s church. Porter also served as the leader of the anti-slavery convention at which Pennington leveled his criticisms. Pennington eventually received more than 10 offers from white ministers to preach from their pulpits.

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