Lawrence McKiver, 97, died March 25 on St. Simons Island, Georgia. In 1980 McKiver and other members of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church in the Bolden/Briar Patch community in coastal Georgia founded the McIntosh County Shouters. The singing group preserves the antebellum Gullah tradition of the ring shout, which has its roots in West Africa. McKiver served as the songster, the singer who sets and leads the group in a call-and-response song, with rhythm kept by the stickman. During the song, the shouters move in a counterclockwise circle, using a low shuffle-step in keeping with religious proscriptions against dancing.
The Shouters were recorded by Art Rosenbaum for Folkways in 1984. In 1993, they were recipients of the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for Arts. They have also received the 2010 Georgia Governor’s Award in the Humanities and recognition from the NAACP, and were documented in Art Rosenbaum’s 1998 book Shout Because You’re Free: The African American Ring Shout Tradition in Coastal Georgia. The McIntosh County Shouters are a nonprofit organization that relies on public support. Contributions may be sent to the group at 2126 GA 99, Townsend, GA 31331.