Man who escaped slavery to study at Yale gets classroom named after him

On Thursday, Yale University will honor its first black student by naming a divinity school classroom after him.

James W.C. Pennington escaped from slavery to Maryland in 1837. At the time, it was illegal to educate African-Americans from other states, but Pennington was allowed to attend classes as long as he didn’t speak, use the library or earn a degree.

Divinity school graduate Lecia Allman led the push to honor Pennington, who later in life formed an organization to help former slaves receive their education.

Divinity School Dean Gregory Sterling said of the decision to rename the classroom that it “recovers part of our past that has been neglected.”