Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho

Title: Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho

Artist: Ruth Starr Rose

Date: 1942

Size: 12.5″ x 16.375″

Medium: Print

Technique: Lithograph

Credit: Gift of the Harmon Foundation

Description: The image centers around a boxing match. In the foreground are three individuals watching the boxing match with smiles. The background consists of spectators on the other side of the ring along with images of people falling from what may be cliffs in the far background. Directly in the center of the boxing ring are two angels, both holding horns or trumpets, with one in front of the other. The one closest to the viewer is bathed in a white light and is holding the horn in their left hand with their right hand holding their index finger up in the form of a “#1”. On the right side of the ring is a man wearing boxing gloves, shorts, and shoes with his right arm slightly bent as if he is pulling back a punch. Opposite the boxer, on the left side of the ring, is a demon-like man with a human lower torso, a pointed tail, wings, and what appears to be a scaley, snake-like head, that is bowed and held in his hands against the ring mat.

Beyond the Image

Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho by Ruth Starr Rose is based on another African American spiritual. The lyrics are set to an uplifting tune that speaks to what can be accomplished with faith.


Once covered by Elvis Presley, “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” is based on the story of the Battle of Jericho in the book of Joshua. In it, God instructed Joshua and the Israelites to march around the walls of the city for six days. On the seventh day, Joshua was to have seven priests with rams’ horns in front of the Ark of the Covenant, blowing the horns as they marched around the city seven times. Joshua was told that when they gave a long blast on their horns, the army was to give a “loud shout” and the walls of Jericho were to come down.

When the walls came down, the city was devoted to God and destroyed every living thing in it (“men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys” [Josh. 6:21 NIV]) with a sword, except for Rahab and her family who aided the Israelites, before burning the city down.

"Joshua Fit de Battle ob Jerico" lyrics from a 1925 book, "The Book of American Negro Spirituals". (The New York Public Library Digital Collections)
  • "Joshua Fit de Battle ob Jericho" by Paul Robeson and Lawrence Brown, 1925, Internet Archive. 00:00

Resources & further reading

Robeson, Paul, and Lawrence Brown. “Joshua Fit de Battle ob Jericho.” Internet Archive, 1925.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. “The Book of American Negro Spirituals” New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Requesting Images

For questions regarding high-resolution digital images, please contact our director, Dr. Vanessa Thaxton-Ward. For more information on image use, please see our FAQ under “Can I request an image?”