University of Connecticut’s Manisha Sinha Wins the James W.C. Pennington Award

Manisha Sinha, the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Professor in American History at the University of Connecticut, is the recipient of the James W.C. Pennington Award. The award is named for the American abolitionist who was the first African American to earn an honorary degree from a European university. It is presented by the Heidelberg Center for American Studies and the faculty of theology of Heidelberg University in Germany.

Born in 1809, Pennington escaped bondage at the age of 18. 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 a doctoral degree on the Black minister.

The James W.C. Pennington Award is given to scholars who have done distinguished work on topics important to Pennington: slavery, emancipation, peace, education, reform, civil rights, religion, and intercultural understanding. The award encompasses a month-long stay in Heidelberg to engage in research on and discuss these topics.

In 2017, Professor Sinha was honored with the Frederick Douglass Book Prize for her book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (Yale University Press, 2016).

A native of India, Professor Sinha holds a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in New York City.

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