Title: Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel
Artist: Ruth Starr Rose
Size: 13″ x 17″
Credit: Gift of the Harmon Foundation
Description: In the center of the image, a man is on his knees with his hands up in the air as he looks up at a spotlight that is shined on him by an angel in the topright corner, by a castle tower that is seen in the background. On the right hand side, next to the man, are three angels, each wearing a lion’s head. The angel closest to him is on his hands and knees, reaching out for rocks or dice that are in front of the man. Behind him, the middle angel is standing with a beer bottle in their hand, looking on to what the angel in front is looking at. The final angel on the right hand side is sitting down with a banjo in his lap, playing and looking on to the scene to his right. On the left of the man, presumably behind him, are two more angels, both wearing lion heads once again. The one closest to him is a female angel, who looks the most formal, wearing a late 1880s dress with a bustle and carrying a fan. Behind her the last angel is carrying a crown on a pillow.
Ruth Starr Rose’s Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel is based on an African American spiritual by the same name. The namesake comes from the story of Daniel in the lion’s den in Daniel 6. In Daniel 6, Daniel was an administrator to the Persian King Darius and oversaw a number of provincial governors. Due to his skill in his job, the king looked to him to potentially oversee all governmental affairs, which made the other administrators and governors jealous. In their jealousy, they were unable to find any fault with the way that he conducted business, so they decided to lay a trap, knowing his faithfulness to his God. They came to King Darius and asked King Darius, under the pretense that all administrators, governors, and otherwise had agreed, to issue an edict that, for the next thirty days, the only person or deity that anyone should pray to would be King Darius, otherwise they would be thrown into the lions’ den. They then insisted that King Darius put it in writing as there was a law that said it could not be appealed later if done in that way. So, the king did as his advisors and administrators asked and put it in writing.
Daniel knew the decree had been published, but held fast to his faith in God, and continued to pray three times a day as he always had, even when the men caught him doing so. The men came back to the king who was distressed to find out that his best man had been caught doing such and, due to the edict, he was bound by law to throw Daniel in the lions’ den. Despite spending the rest of the day attempting to find a way to save Daniel, the administrators and advisors came to the king and reminded him of his law and forced King Darius to throw Daniel into the lions’ den. As he did so, the king told Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” (Dan. 6:16 NIV). In the morning, after not sleeping, the king rushed to see if Daniel was okay and was pleased to find that Daniel did not have so much as a wound on him because an angel had been sent to protect Daniel from the lions as he was innocent, much to the king’s joy.
The spiritual, “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel”, points out various times in which God saved those who prayed to him for help in their situations before asking if God delivered those people, why would he not deliver every person:
“Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel,
Deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel,
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel,
And why not a every man?
He deliver’d Daniel from the lion’s den,
Jonah from the belly of the whale,
And the Hebrew children from the fiery furnace,
And why not every man?”
Ruth Starr Rose depicts the three stories outlined in these lyrics, with this image being Daniel in the lion’s den, Jonah in And the Lord Delivered Jonah, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Shadrack and the Burning Fiery Furnace. The lyrics speak directly to the enslavement of those who were singing, highlighting their faith and trust that God would deliver them from their own situation. Paul Robeson’s version, which can be heard below starting at 1:36, includes the line “Now glory shall be mine!” and, in a later version of the song, Robeson uses “Yes, freedom shall be mine!” instead.
Among the rotation of songs that the Hampton Students sang on tour, “My Lord Delivered Daniel” made a frequent appearance. It was counted amongst the songs that “seemed to please the most” at their concert in Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York in 1874. In Oswego, at Doolittle Hall in the same year, the reporter compared the Hampton Students performance to the Fisk Jubilee Singers and explained that “their singing is not much different from that of the Jubilee Singers, except that the company is larger and the chorus more powerful. They delivered Daniel from the lion’s den to a different tune, but just as effectually as did the Jubilee troupe.”
Note: For “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel”, skip audio to 1:36 for the beginning of the song.
Robeson, Paul. “1. WORK ALL DE SUMMER 2. DIDN’T MY LORD DELIVER DANIEL.” Internet Archive, 1937. https://archive.org/details/78_1-work-all-de-summer-2-didnt-my-lord-deliver-daniel_paul-robeson-lawrence-brown_gbia0397182b.[Newspaper clipping labeled “Oswego Times, March 23, 1874”]. “Singing Up” Virginia Hall. Hampton University Archives, Hampton, Virginia.