The Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California is known as a catalyst for the modern Pentecostal movement to burn all over the world. William Seymour, a black half blind preacher, was credited for the revival fire at Azusa Street, but Lucy Farrow, an old black woman born in slavery, was the spark that ignited the flame.
Lucy Farrow was born a slave in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1851. Her uncle was famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass. We don’t know much about her past, but she was married and living in Mississippi in 1871. By 1890, she had moved to Houston, Texas, was a widow who had borne seven children of which only two survived. There is only one known photograph of her with a group of people.
In Houston, Lucy pastored a small mission-church in 1905. A young black man attended her church named William Seymour. During this times, Reverend Charles Fox Parham began holding crusades in downtown Houston and preaching about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. He had started a Bible college in Kansas where many of his students received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Lucy decided to move to Kansas for two months and left her church in the hands of William Seymour. There, she attended Parham’s school and work as a governess for his children.
When Lucy returned to Houston, she shared her experiences with Seymour. As short time later, Parham opened a new Bible school in Houston, and Farrow convinced Seymour to enroll. After attending the college, Seymour moved to Los Angeles to preach the Gospel and about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Seymour had not yet received the baptism. Seymour and those in his ministry collected an offering to send for Lucy. She preached and taught there, and through the laying on of hands, many received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues including Seymour. Word spread and Seymour moved to a building on Azusa Street to accommodate the seekers, both white and black at a time when segregation was a major part of church life. Revival spread throughout the nation and the world.
Lucy didn’t stay in California for long during the revival. In August, 1906, she traveled to Norfolk, Virginia. On her way, she stopped and preached Parham’s Apostolic Faith Movement camp meeting where many received the power of the Spirit, spoke in tongues. In Virginia, she held a series of meetings in Portsmouth for several weeks where 150 received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and about 200 were saved.
By December, 1906, Lucy decided God was calling her to be a missionary in Liberia. She sent word to Azusa for someone to take her place and minister in Portsmouth. Then she met others in New York who also felt the call to Africa and traveled to Liberia with the support of the church at Azusa. Many under her ministry were saved, sanctified, and healed, and 20 received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
In late 1907, Lucy returned to the United States preaching throughout the South on her way to Azusa. There, she ministered from what she called her “faith cottage back of the mission.” Many received healing and a greater filling of the Holy Spirit there. Later, she returned to Texas to live with her son. In 1911, at the age of 60, she contracted tuberculosis and died.
Lucy Farrow was known for operating by the leading of the Holy Spirit. She would only lay hands on and pray for people as prompted by the Holy Spirit. Her legacy of a Spirit filled life and ministry live on in Pentecostal churches today.