The Ring Shout

The ring shout is a form of dance that is characterized by leader-chorus singing, hand clapping, other percussion. Participants typically move in a counterclockwise circle. The ring shout has been practiced for many generations and even today with the McIntosh County Singers and the GeeChee Gullah Ring Shouters.


It often took place after a prayer or worship service. In Jamaica and Trinidad, “the Shout” was performed around altars. In the U.S, Baptist churches prohibited drumming and dancing which ruled out most religious dances especially from African descendant. Since ring shouting generally did not use musical instruments other than clapping and stomping it was allowed in churches after the formal worship. However Slave owners would discourage religious dances, and preachers would condemn them. 


The ring shout is considered by some, to be the Spirit of God taking over someone’s actions.This is a charismatic quality that stems from a combination of African notions and the Holiness Pentecostal movement. Like the Spirituals and musical traditions, aspects of the ring shout have heavily influenced all types of dance.The ring shout influenced European dance, jazz, blues, ballet and finally helped create modern dance which includes hip-hop. In different areas dances were preserved from Africa.


  • People would push benches or any obstacles out of the way.

    Then some would get into a circle, while others either stood nearby or inside of it. 

  • A “caller” would start the neat or song. A responder would then start to beat a piece of wood with a stick to keep the beat.

  • Others would start to sing 

  • The “Shouters” then would start to dance in a counterclockwise circle.

  • They would keep their upper bodies stiff and move their pelvis to sway their dress or overalls.

  • Each shouter would create a style of shouting all their own.

    The most experienced dances never lifted their feet off the ground or crossed their feet.

Perserving the Culture

McIntosh County Shouters:

This group is one of the last active practitioners of ring shouting. They first began performing in 1980. They have been shouting for over 80 years. This group was awarded the NEA National Heritage Fellowship in 1993, and were selected as Producers of Distinction and Founding Members of the “Georgia Made Georgia Grown Program,” in 2009. Their performances include the National Black Arts Festival, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, World Music Institute, and Sound Legacies at Emory University. The group has been featured in multiple magazines and documentaries.

Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters:

This group was organized in 1992. The Shouters are committed to embracing, preserving, and protecting the historical and cultural heritage of the Gullah Geechee legacy. The Shouters’ cultural goal is to keep the original “shout” as authentic from 1800 to the present. A fun fact about this group is that they are the oldest active Ring Shouter performing in the world, a direct descendant from slavery. All members of the group are direct descendants from slavery in America.



The ring shout was a way for African American slaves to express themselves  safely without worrying about what their slave masters would do to them. The ring shout is high spirited and brought joy to those who participated. It is evident that the ring shout has influenced many based on groups still doing it today.


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