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RIP: Lawrence McKiver, last original member of McIntosh County Shouters

McIntosh County Shouters
McIntosh County Shouters
Library of Congress video

Sad news today from the National Endowment for the Arts:

It is with great sadness that the National Endowment for the Arts acknowledges the passing of Lawrence McKiver, patriarch of the McIntosh County Shouters. This group received an NEA National Heritage Fellowship in 1993 and are one of the last, active practitioners of this African-American song and movement tradition known as the "shout," or the "ring shout."

McKiver was born, the NEA says, near Briar Patch, Georgia, and explained the origins of shouting this way:

 "In slavery times, the old folks couldn't talk to each other. They had to make signs ... make the sounds we singing. That's why we sing in these old slavery sounds ... they couldn't talk so they sang a song and they'd get together underneath the song that we're gonna sing."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes:

The traditional ring shout is a very old African-American-Gullah performance tradition. The Mount Calvary Baptist Church congregation in the Bolden community of McIntosh County preserved the song form while others ceased to practice it. By the early 20th century, the ring shout was believed to have died out completely. Then, in 1980, folklorists Fred Fussell and George Mitchell discovered this group still practicing the ring shout and came to see it in person. Once this revelation was made public, folklorists, ethnomusicologists, dance troupes, historians, professors and anthropologists descended upon the Bolden community to learn about the ring shout from a community that had never broken its tradition.

Watch the McIntosh County Shouters sing one of their songs in this video. The shout starts at 15:33.