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Georgia Ring Shout

            Originally, dance was prayer or spiritual gathering to the slaves - an integral part of religion and culture and in America, it was known as the "Ring Shout." The Ring Shout derived from the African Circle Dance and is considered one of the most significant African dances to influence the spread of all others and the music as well.

    Early in the United States the Baptist Church prohibited drumming and dancing which ruled out most of the religious dances of African decent. Dancing was defined by many things by the Baptist Church, primarily the crossing of ones feet (was considered unholy dancing.) Since the Ring Shout didn't generally use any musical instruments only a percussion of clapping and stomping or sometime a stick beating down on the floor and a "call and response' type of singing (shouting) all

the while using counterclockwise dance-like movement. The Ring Shout usually occurred in a church after the formal worship, in "praise houses", Barns, or thanking God(Africans deity was Yoruba god Elegba, which later when converted to Christian slaves became Jesus) at the end of the day in the bush arbors or field. These generally lasted until a spiritual possession of "God" or "beloved ancestor"(a Sasa period) would be felt. Most Christian's frowned on this practice as heathen, but allowed it for various reasons.

    The ring shout was first described in detail during the Civil War by outside observers in coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia. The Shout was very popular in South Carolina, Texas, Georgia and Louisiana and its practice continued in those areas well into the twentieth century which eventually some say gave birth to a secular parody of the Ring Shout called the 'Walk-Around' in Minstrel Shows (Pattin' Juba dance is also connected to the Ring Shout). With a fresh arrival of slaves to the new world on a weekly basis, the slaves would be able to keep ties with their spiritual connections, dances and music, even if outlawed.

    Up to 20% of the Africans brought to America were Muslims. Islam had established a presence along the West African coast long before the Portuguese introduced Christianity there... this leads us to the word shout which refers to the dance, not shouting verbally and is believed to be derived from the Afro-Arabic saut, referring to the counter-clockwise movement around the Kabaa in Mecca.

    The Ring Shout utilizes the whole body (feet, arms, legs, Hips, belly, head, hands etc.) with the main focus being rhythms. The dancers begin by first walking in a 'congo pose' and one by one, sliding their feet as they move, shuffling round, one after the other in a ring (circle). The song is danced with a kinda shuffle step, while the hips would wiggle and sway while the shoulders were held stiff and various heel tapping and stamping, each doing their own improvisations. At the end of each stanza of the song the dancers stop short with a slight stamp on the last note, an then, putting the other foot forward, proceed through the next verse all with a style and grace, occasionally a dancer would enter the center of the ring. Due to many contrary movements in the dance there was a sort of jerking motion which agitated the entire shouter.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

West Africa 1700s? None Religious Dance

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music / Song Titles

n/a n/a At The Ball (Darktown Follies)
            Run, Mary, Run, You Got a Right to the Tree of Life
            Run, Old Jeremiah (1934 Brown & Jennings)
            Spider and the Bed Bug Had a Good Time
            Suzie Suzie

Night Clubs



  New Amsterdam Theatre McIntosh County, GA.
            Place Congo Square (New Orleans)

Films / Movies

Ballets / Stage

Down Yonder: The McIntosh County Shouters 1913 - Darktown Follies
  Ziegfeld Follies

Instructional Videos


n/a n/a

Other Related Dances of the time...

Bamboula Cakewalk Walk-Around    
Bambuca Juba dance      
Buck Dance Jump Jim Crow      

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Master Juba   n/a

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Published Publisher
$ Dancing the Ring Shout (children's book) Siegelson, Kim L. 2003 Muze Inc.
Encyclopedia of Dance Chujoy, Anatole 1949 A.S. Barnes & Co.
$ Jazz Dance: The Story of American ... Stearns, Marshall 1994 (1956) Da Capo Press
Power of Black Music; Interpreting Its History
from Africa to the United States
Floyd, Samuel A. 1995 Oxford University Press
$ Shout Because You're Free: The African American Ring Shout Tradition in Coastal Georgia Rosenbaum, Art 1998 University of Georgia Press
Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands Parrish, Lydia 1942 University of Georgia Press
World History of the Dance Sachs, Curt 1963 Norton Library
Slave Songs of The United States Ware, Allen 1867 Garrison

Musicians / Bands


Poets / Writers


  n/a H.G Spaulding (w) Nation Magazine (1867)
      Lydia Parish (w)  

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Afro-American Spirituals Field Hollers Kongo-Cross Underground Railroad
Basers Geechee maa aankh, the Work Songs
Call-and-response Kamitic-Kongo cosmogram Negro Spirituals Yowa Cross
Divine Essence Kamitic people (Ancient Egyptians) Praise Houses Batptist / Penticostal dance


NOTE: The Congo Pose: Elbows gently tucked into waist, with forearms extended at 45 degree angles, palms down.
LINKS:McIntosh County Shouters
March 27, 2013