African American Culture: Ring Shout

The History

The first documented account of the ring shout was recorded in the 1840s. However, it is easy to assume that the ring shout tradition came long before that. The ring shout was used as a unifier between enslaved Africans. These ring shouts were often led by a ring shout leader. Ring shouts contain elements of Call and Response, ham boning, and hand clapping. As well as, incorporating religious dance and highly stylized movements as shown in the photo above. The ring shout influenced jubilee, spiritual, gospel, and jazz.

The McIntosh County Shouters

The McIntosh County Shouters is a ten-member group of individuals who are keeping the movement and traditions of ring shout alive. Since 1980, they have performed with counterclockwise dancing, hand-clapping, and call and response singing. The founder, Lawerence McKiver, explains that ring and shout are essential to African American history. It was a way for our ancestors to communicate, unify, and express themselves. Thus, they will continue to try to keep that tradition alive by performing.

In this example of the ring shout, notice the counterclockwise dancing as well as a ring shout leader residing in the middle of the circle. There are elements of call and response, tambourine playing, and clapping. It easy to notice that each group adds their own flare to their ring shout performance. However, their expressiveness and their message remains the consistent.


In Conclusion, Ring Shout was essential in the Negro Spiritual genre. This allowed our ancestors to connect with one another and express themselves. During this time period, our African descendants were limited. They were unable to use and/or make instruments so ring shout was another invention that kept them engaged in music. Of course ring shout was accompanied by ham boning, hand clapping, and Call & Response. It is truly amazing that they could create something as beautiful as this.

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