Award CeremonyUniversität Heidelberg Confers James W.C. Pennington Award

Press Release No. 66/2023
7 June 2023

Eleventh prize-winner is American political scientist Melvin L. Rogers

Political scientist Prof. Dr Melvin L. Rogers from Brown University in Providence (USA) is to receive the James W.C. Pennington Award of Heidelberg University. This will honour a scholar who has done ground-breaking research on Afro-American history. The award is presented by the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) and the Faculty of Theology in commemoration of American pastor and former slave James W.C. Pennington. He received an honorary doctorate from Ruperto Carola in 1849, making him the first African-American to have this academic honour bestowed upon him by a European university. The prize will be presented in an award ceremony on 13 June 2023.

Melvin L. Rogers

Prof. Rogers is Associate Director of the Center for Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Brown University. In the words of Prof. Dr Jan Stievermann, whose research field at the HCA is the history of Christianity in the USA, the academic has made a name for himself as a proven expert on the Afro-American tradition of political thought. Melvin L. Rogers is also well known for his research on democratic theory. His two most important publications also deal with these topics – “The Undiscovered Dewey: Religion, Morality, and the Ethos of Democracy” (2008) and “The Darkened Light of Faith: Race, Democracy, and Freedom in African American Political Thought” (2023).

The James W.C. Pennington Award honours distinguished scholars engaged in research on subjects of special importance to Pennington. These include slavery and emancipation, peace, education, social reform, civil rights, religion, and intercultural understanding. The prize, which is presented for the eleventh time, encompasses a month-long research stay in Heidelberg. A donation from the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation forms the basis for these stays.

Born in 1807, James W.C. Pennington escaped bondage at the age of 18, learned to read and write, and from 1834 was the first Black American to attend classes at Yale University. In 1838 he was ordained a pastor of the Presbyterian Church. At the World Peace Congress in Paris in 1849, Pennington made the acquaintance of the Heidelberg scholar Friedrich Carové, who was so impressed by the American that, the very same year, he persuaded his university to grant Pennington an honorary doctorate in theology.

At the award ceremony Prof. Rogers will give a lecture on “Republicanism in Black: Nineteenth-Century African American Contributions to Our Idea of Freedom”. The event will take place at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, Hauptstraße 120, and start at 6.15 pm. Please register with ahennemann@hca.uni-heidelberg.de