In 1844, in a field outside the town of Northampton, Massachusetts, a gang of young men showed up at a revival meeting, making trouble. The meeting’s organizers grew angry; the men – more than a hundred – redoubled their uproar. One of the meeting attendees, a forty-seven-year-old woman, hid behind a chest in the corner of the tent: “I am the only colored person here,” she thought, “and on me, probably, their wicked mischief will fall first, and perhaps fatally.”
The young men started to rock the tent-poles. And she gave herself a talking-to.
“Shall I run away and hide from the devil? Me, a servant of the living God? Have I not faith enough to go out and quell that mob?” She tried, unsuccessfully, to convince a couple of friends to confront the men with her. She left the tent alone, and, the moon bright on the field, she walked up a rise nearby and began to sing.
Sojourner Truth always was a powerful singer.
It got their attention. And after a few minutes’ conversation, she managed to talk them into leaving.
She was born Isabella Baumfree, and grew up in slavery in Rifton, a hamlet in upstate New York. She remembered her mother teaching her the Lord’s Prayer in Dutch, her first language. When she was nine, she was sold, along with a flock of sheep, away from her family.