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Shout Because You're Free

The African American Ring Shout Tradition in Coastal Georgia

Art Rosenbaum Photographs by Margo Newmark Rosenbaum Musical transcripts and hi

Publication Year: 1998

The ring shout is the oldest known African American performance tradition surviving on the North American continent. Performed for the purpose of religious worship, this fusion of dance, song, and percussion survives today in the Bolton Community of McIntosh County, Georgia. Incorporating oral history, first-person accounts, musical transcriptions, photographs, and drawings, Shout Because You're Free documents a group of performers known as the McIntosh County Shouters.

Derived from African practices, the ring shout combines call-and-response singing, the percussion of a stick or broom on a wood floor, and hand-clapping and foot-tapping. First described in depth by outside observers on the sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia during the Civil War, the ring shout was presumed to have died out in active practice until 1980, when the shouters in the Bolton community first came to the public's attention.

Shout Because You're Free is the result of sixteen years of research and fieldwork by Art and Margo Rosenbaum, authors of Folk Visions and Voices. The book includes descriptions of present-day community shouts, a chapter on the history of the shout's African origins, the recollections of early outside observers, and later folklorists' comments. In addition, the tunes and texts of twenty-five shout songs performed by the McIntosh County Shouters are transcribed by ethnomusicologist Johann S. Buis.Shout Because You're Free is a fascinating look at a unique living tradition that demonstrates ties to Africa, slavery, and Emancipation while interweaving these influences with worship and oneness with the spirit.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

On a hot July afternoon in 1995, the annex building of the Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Bolden, Georgia, did not ring with the sound of the shout songs or resound to the beating of a stick on the wood floor; nor did that floor move to the force of a score of people moving counterclockwise in the ring shout, ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

We wish to thank our families for being there for us and giving us love and understanding—shouters like Deacon Andrew Palmer and Mrs. Lucille Holloway, now deceased, as well as Mrs. Oneitha Ellison, who paved the way so that our way might be easier. ...

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Introduction: "We Never Did Let It Go By"

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pp. 1-16

The ring shout is the oldest African American performance tradition surviving on the North American continent. An impressive fusion of call-and-response singing, polyrhythmic percussion, and expressive and formalized dancelike movements, it has had a profound influence on African American music and religious practice. ...

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1. "Kneebone in the Wilderness": The History of the Shout in America [Image Plates follow pg 52]

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pp. 17-52

According to Lawrence McKiver, "every bit of it is an African act. The old people, that's what they tell me. Nobody does it but our kind of people. The shout. . . it's just an African act. You can tell by the singing, tell by the song, tell by the beat, it's actually an African beat. ...

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2. "One Family of People": The Shouters of Bolden [Image Plates follow pg 84]

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pp. 53-84

The shouters of Bolden live mostly within walking distance of each other, on land they own—land where their grandparents and great-grandparents were slaves. The community is also known as "Briar Patch" after the Briar Patch cemetery. "The Wyllys had a slave [plantation] and the Hopkins had a slave [plantation] ...

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3. Lawrence McKiver, Boss Songster

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pp. 85-104

As Lawrence McKiver approaches his eightieth year, he lives alone in a small house set back off the highway in Bolden—under the live oak trees. With some of his extra earnings from taking the shout out of the community in recent years, he screened in his front porch, ...

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4. The Shout Songs

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pp. 105-163

Along with the shout itself, the shouters of Bolden have preserved a sizeable and impressive repertoire of shout songs. These are today considered a distinct category of song, used only in conjunction with the shout and related percussion. The shout songs would never be sung in church in place of spirituals, hymns, or gospel songs ...

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Transcriber's Note

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pp. 164-166

Upon first hearing the ring shout repertory, even the sophisticated listener can be fooled by the simplicity of the musical construction. But this simplicity is deceptively complex. The improvisational artistry of the leader s singing is so fleeting and varied that putting such virtuosity on paper has been an extremely daunting task. ...

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Historical Essay. The Ring Shout: Revisiting the Islamic and African Issues of a Christian "Holy Dance"

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pp. 167-172

Lorenzo Dow Turners explanation that the word "shout" comes from the Arabic word saut (Parrish 1942; 1965) is one theory of the likely origin of the term. There can be no doubt that the performance context of the ring shout never involves any shouting in the literal sense of the word.1 ...


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pp. 173-182


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pp. 183-188


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pp. 189-190

E-ISBN-13: 9780820343617
E-ISBN-10: 0820319341
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820319346

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 18 b&w photos, 9 illus.
Publication Year: 1998

OCLC Number: 784959326
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Shout Because You're Free

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Georgia -- McIntosh County -- Social life and customs.
  • African Americans -- Georgia -- McIntosh County -- Religion.
  • African Americans -- Georgia -- McIntosh County -- Folklore.
  • McIntosh County (Ga.) -- Social life and customs.
  • McIntosh County (Ga.) -- Religious life and customs.
  • Folklore -- Georgia -- McIntosh County.
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