The Old Ark's a Moverin'

Title: The Old Ark’s a Moverin’

Artist: Ruth Starr Rose

Date: 1938

Size: 14″ x 19″

Medium: Print

Technique: Color Lithograph

Credit: Gift of the Harmon Foundation

Description: A riverboat carrying several animals and people is featured in the center of the image. In the foreground is a smaller, pink boat with two angels; the angel in the back is steering the boat while the angel in the front is pointing the way for the riverboat. On the riverboat are two giraffes, two elephants, two tigers, two monkeys, two oxen, two goats, and what is possibly a family with a man, woman, and four children. In the background is a rainbow of yellow and red.

Beyond the Image

The Old Ark’s a Moverin’ by Ruth Starr Rose is based on the African American spiritual by the same name. The lyrics for the song recount the story of Noah’s Ark told in Genesis 6:9 to Genesis 9:17. Noah was told by God that God was going to put an end to all people because they’d become so violent, but because Noah and his family were righteous, God wanted to spare them and further had a mission for them. God was going to flood the Earth for forty days and forty nights and wipe the Earth clean of every creation he’d made, except for Noah’s family and the animals that Noah gathered: two of all living creatures (easily seen in Rose’s depiction). Some versions of “The Old Ark’s a Moverin'” even call out Noah’s sons:


“Ham, Shem, and Japeth was settin’ one day
Talkin’ on the upper deck and lookin’ at the bay
While they was disputin’ ’bout this and that
The ark done bump on Ararat”


It appears as though “The Old Ark’s a Moverin'” was among the Hampton Students’ early program lineups as they went on tour across the nation. In the March 31, 1874 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, an article on the Hampton Students mentioned that “De ole ark” was among “the ones that seemed to please [the crowd] the most.” In another 1874 article, a journalist for the Oswego Times mentions that they “could imagine ourselves in the negro quarter of a Kentucky camp meeting when ‘De ole ark was moverin’ along’ if there had only been a few rousing ‘Amens’ and ‘Hallelujahs’ thrown in” and that at the end of the concert at Doolittle Hall, “by request,” the Hampton Students “repeated ‘Oh, de ole ark a movein along’ with increased unction’.”

An advertisement for a concert put on by the Hampton Students in Oswego, New York, where "The Old Ark's a Moverin'" was performed. (New York Historic Newspapers)
  • "The Old Ark's A-Moverin'" by Homer Rodeheaver, 1923, Internet Archive. 00:00

Resources & further reading

[Newspaper advertisement for a concert by the “Hampton Colored Students” in March 23, 1874 edition of the Oswego Daily Palladium]. New York Historic Newspapers, New York.
[Newspaper clipping labeled “Oswego Daily Times, March 23, 1874”]. “Singing Up” Virginia Hall. Hampton University Archives, Hampton, Virginia.
[Newspaper clipping labeled “Oswego Times, March 23, 1874”]. “Singing Up” Virginia Hall. Hampton University Archives, Hampton, Virginia.

Rodeheaver, Homer. “The Old Ark’s A-Moverin’.” Internet Archive, 1923.

“Songs of the Jubilee Singers from Fisk University.” Library of Congress, Music Division. John Church & Co., 1881.

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