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Universität Heidelberg Presents James W.C. Pennington Award

Press Release No. 119/2014
16 June 2014
Historian Laurie Maffly-Kipp receives prize for research in African-American religion and history

Historian and religious scholar Prof. Dr. Laurie Maffly-Kipp from Washington University in St. Louis is this year’s recipient of the James W.C. Pennington Award, which will be bestowed on 24 June 2014. The prize 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 price is awarded by the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) and the Faculty of Theology. The presentation will be held at the HCA and begins at 6.15 pm. Prof. Maffly-Kipp’s keynote address is entitled “James W.C. Pennington and the Origins of African-American Historiography”.

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 2011, US President Barack Obama sent official greetings to the HCA.

Laurie Maffly-Kipp holds a professorship at the John C. Danforth Center for Religion and Politics at Washington University. She received her B.A. from Amherst College in English and Religion and her Ph.D. in American History at Yale University. From 1989 to 2013 she taught Religious Studies and American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author and editor of numerous publications, among them a study on Protestant spiritual practices in Gold Rush California, a volume on African-American history and religion and a collection of writings by African-American women historians. Her latest project is a survey of Mormonism in American life.

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.

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Latest Revision: 2014-06-16
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