Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Religious Studies

Reader 1

Darryl A. Smith

Reader 2

Zayn Kassam

Rights Information

© 2010 Emma Norman


Introduction Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel? An' Why Not Every Man: Black Theodicy in the Antebellum United States and the Problem of the Demonic God is an ambitious attempt to construct a coherent narrative that spans many centuries and connect numerous historical persons and figures in recent scholarship. I set out to understand how an enslaved person could have faith in the goodness of god despite their oppressed condition. I learned that most enslaved Africans first encountered Christianity when they became the “property” of Christians. Then, in a revolutionarily creative move, the Black community re-signified Christianity from a religious system synonymous with oppression to a theology of liberation. The Black community claimed they knew the real Christ, embodied by Jesus, the suffering servant. They discovered an intimate spiritual connection with the Children of Israel, delivered from slavery by the grace of God. Black people of the Christian faith created thousands of Spirituals lamenting their suffering and celebrating the promise of a liberated future on Earth and in God's heaven. Not everyone accepted Christianity, however. Many enslaved or otherwise oppressed people found much to be cynical of in those who claimed to be Godly; corruption, hypocrisy, violence, inhumanity. These skeptical voices speak to us through Slave Narratives and records of preachers who documented a certain humanistic doubt in the antebellum Black community. The lyrics of the Seculars, non-theistic music produced at the same time as the Spirituals, express humor and irony in reaction to the absurd nature of life as experienced by a Black person during slavery. I went on to explore contemporary critiques of the emancipative potential of theodicy, ending up mostly won over