Pinky was a little slave girl -- only nine years old when her mother died. To lose your mother at such a young age is terrible -- but being a slave child made it even worse.
Pinky would not go to the home of loving relatives. Neither she nor her loved ones had any voice in her future whatsovever. She was considered "property".
Pinky's owner decided to sell her on the slave market. He figured he might get up to $900 for her.
It just so happened that Henry Ward Beecher, a pastor from New York was visiting in town and heard of Pinky's plight. He approached the slave owner and asked if, perhaps, he could take Pinky back home with him. "I'm sure the kind people of Plymouth Church would be happy to provide a loving home for her.", he said.
"Not on your life!" declared Pinky's owner. "I could get $900 for this girl! I'll tell you what, give me the $900 and she's yours."
Rev. Beecher did not have $900 -- but her persuaded the owner to allow Pinky to travel back to New York with the promise of full payment, or her return.
The next Sunday, the people at Plymouth Church were surprised when Rev. Beecher brought Pinky to the front of the church during the worship service.
"We are going to have an auction to purchase this little girl's freedom!" Beecher declared, "Who will start us out with $5? Yes! Now $10?"
He proceeded until they reached $900! Everyone cheered. There was hardly a dry eye in the place.
Rev. Beecher called the ushers up to take the offering right on the spot -- and when they brought the plates forward, they had more than enough cash for Pinky's freedom!
Someone had placed a golden ring in the offering. Rev. Beecher took it out of the plate, and placed it on Pinky's finger. "This is your freedom ring, Pinky!" he said. "Wear it proudly, and remember, you are free now, and nobody can take that away from you!"
Pinky was "adopted" by the Ward's, a fine family of the congregation. They raised her as their own child, gave her a good education and sent her to Howard University. She later became an excellent teacher, a loving wife and a devoted mother.
Many years later, in 1927, Pinky (Mrs. Rose Ward Hunt) returned to Plymouth Church for a special aniversary celebration. In a beautiful display of gratitude, she returned the ring to them, saying,
"Thank you so very much for what you did for me when I was just a child. You paid the price to set me free, and for that, I will always be thankful!"
-- personal note: I happened upon Plymouth Church quite by accident a few years ago, and was intrigued by a painting of the auction which hung in the hallway. Inquiring, I heard the story from a very gracious and kind hostess.
She says another portrait of Pinky, by Johnson Oatman, hangs at the Hallmark headquarters. For many years, they had no idea of the the painting's meaning.
Also, interestingly, three weeks later, Abraham Lincoln came to visit the Plymouth Church. The next day, he gave a powerful speech which really launched his presidential campaign nationally.