Two Black Scholars Honored by Yale Posthumously

Two Black Scholars Honored by Yale Posthumously

Rev. Cleo Graham speaking at the Yale ceremony.
Two black pastors who were denied formal divinity school educations at Yale in the 1800s, including a former pastor of Faith Congregational Church UCC in Hartford, CT, were awarded their degrees posthumously in a recent ceremony.

Rev. James W.C. Pennington, who had served at Faith Congregational, Hartford's oldest black church, and the Rev. Alexander Crummell, an Episcopal pastor, both studied theology at the university but were barred from formally registering as students or speaking in class due to the color of their skin.

As stated on the Yale website, the ceremony, held last Thursday at Yale’s Battell Chapel, was "an opportunity for the university to honor the achievements of the two men, who became noted pastors and powerful advocates for racial justice, and to atone for having failed to embrace them as students or treat them with the dignity and decency they deserved."

The Rev. Cleo Graham, pastor of Faith Congregational, spoke about Pennington at the ceremony.

"Early in my tenure as FCC’s Pastor I was disturbed with the knowledge that our former pastor, Rev. James William Charles Pennington, never received his well-deserved degree from Yale University," Rev. Graham said after the ceremony. "I felt such relief while sharing Rev. Pennington’s story and joy to witness a historical breakthrough in his memoir, in Faith Congregational Church, and in Yale University’s history!"

Rev. Darrell Goodwin, Executive Conference Minister, also took part in the celebration.

"We are called to right the wrongs of the past with the Spirit of reconciliation and reparation of the present. I was humbled to see the honoring of these fearless men who didn’t allow a 'no' to thwart their 'yes.' I pray that the legacy and imprint they left in what would become the Southern New England Conference continues to chart our way forward," Rev. Goodwin said.

Read the full coverage of the event on the Yale website.


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