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Calming an Angry Mob
by Thea Rozetta Lapham


Actions speak louder than words.

But when those actions are combined with words -- spoken or sung, the effects can verge on extraordinary.

It was during the time Sojourner Truth lived among members of the Northampton Association in Northampton, MA, from 1844 to 1846, that her words and actions allowed her to perform a feat of miraculous proportions.

When a rowdy mob of young men threatened to disturb a tent revival Sojourner Truth was attending she followed the example of others and hid in terror.

Until she remembered who she was: Not Isabella Hardenbergh the former slave, not Isabella Hardenbergh an illiterate and powerless black woman, but Sojourner Truth -- called to preach, called to testify, called to greatness.

As written by Olive Gilbert in her narrative of Sojourner Truth, Truth said, "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, when I know it is written -- 'One shall chase a thousand, and put ten thousand to flight.' I know there are not a thousand here; and I know I am a servant of the living God. I'll go to the rescue and the Lord shall go with me and protect me."

Gilbert writes, "Isabella walked away from the safety of the meeting tent and, seeking out a small rise of earth for her pulpit, began singing a song of Christ's resurrection (Narrative, pg. 94)

With an emphasis on the lyrics, and little mind to the occasional flat note and lack of harmony, Sojourner Truth continued to sing as the mob of young men surrounded her with clubs and sticks. But instead of beating Sojourner Truth they entreated her to continue singing and to tell them her story.

"Her speech had operated on the roused passions of the mob like oil on agitated waters; they were, as a whole, entirely subdued, and only clamored when she ceased to speak or sing." (Narrative, page 94)

Gradually the din of angry voices subsided and the only voice which could be heard was Sojourner's. Climbing into the back of a nearby wagon, Sojourner proceeded to preach and sing to her increasingly respectful congregation.

After striking a unique bargain with the young men -- their promise to leave the site after one last spiritual and allow the revival meeting to continue in peace, Sojourner Truth rejoined her fellow worshippers under the tent.

Sojourner Truth had attitude. And she had faith. It took great courage for her to step outside that tent and put herself in the center of a mob of disrespectful, and potentially dangerous, men.

It's one thing to talk the talk but it's another to walk the walk. Sojourner Truth could have stayed inside the tent with the others. Instead, she chose to back up her words with her actions.

And throughout the rest of her life -- whether it was to calm an angry mob of protesters, debating an issue related to the causes she supported, or in her prayer life, Sojourner Truth made sure her words and actions worked together.



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