Forerunners: Sojourner Truth

Susannah Black
Susannah Black received her BA from Amherst College and her MA from Boston University. She is an editor at Mere Orthodoxy, Plough Quarterly, Postliberal Thought and its journal New Polity, and The Davenant Press. Previously, she was an editor at Providence and Fare Forward. She's a co-founder of Solidarity Hall and The Simone Weil Center, and is on the boards of the Distributist Review, The Davenant Institute, and The Simone Weil Center. Her writing has appeared in First Things, The Distributist Review, Solidarity Hall, Providence, Amherst Magazine, Front Porch Republic, Ethika Politika, The Human Life Review, The American Conservative, Mere Orthodoxy, Fare Forward, Postliberal Thought, and elsewhere. She blogs at Radio Free Thulcandra and tweets at @suzania. A native Manhattanite, she is now living in Queens.
Jason Landsel
Jason Landsel is the artist for Plough’s “Forerunners” series, and lives in the Woodcrest community in upstate New York. Instagram: @jasonlandsel

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.

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