Universität Heidelberg Presents James W.C. Pennington Award
1 July 2013
Historian Prof. Dr. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham from Harvard University in Cambridge (USA) is this year’s recipient of the James W.C. Pennington Award, which will be bestowed on 9 July 2013. The prize, which is awarded for the second time, pays tribute to the African American churchman and former slave James W.C. Pennington. In 1849, Pennington received an honorary doctorate from Heidelberg University. He was thus the first African American to receive this title from a European university. The Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) and the Faculty of Theology established the award in 2011 to mark the university’s 625th anniversary. The presentation will be held at the HCA, Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais, Hauptstraße 120, and begins at 6.15 pm. Prof. Higginbotham’s ceremonial address is entitled “Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel: Biblical Witness and the African American Freedom Struggle”.
The James W.C. Pennington Award is given to scholars who have done distinguished work on the African American experience in the Atlantic world. It encompasses a month-long research stay in Heidelberg. A generous contribution from Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger, long-time supporter of the HCA, laid the foundation for the first awards. When the new award was inaugurated in June 2011, US President Barack Obama sent official greetings to the HCA to convey his gratitude for the initiative and express his conviction that honouring Pennington’s achievements would inspire future generations of Americans and Germans.
Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham holds a professorship in history and in African and African American studies at Harvard University. After completing degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Howard University in Washington, D.C., she earned her Ph.D. in American history in 1984 at the University of Rochester. She has been teaching and conducting research in Harvard since 1993. Her research and publications focus mainly on African American religious history and women’s history as well as on the history of the civil rights movement and electoral politics. She is the co-editor of the African American National Biography and of the Harvard Guide to African-American History.
Born in 1809, Pennington escaped bondage at the age of eighteen. He learned to read and write and in 1834 was the first black man to attend classes at Yale University. In 1838 he was ordained a minister of the Presbyterian Church. At the 1849 World Peace Congress in Paris, Pennington was befriended by the Heidelberg scholar Friedrich Carové. Pennington so impressed Carové that in the same year he persuaded the Heidelberg Faculty of Theology to confer an honorary doctorate on the black minister.