The Kennedy Center

McIntosh County Shouters



Biography

The members of the McIntosh Country Shouters are all related either by blood or marriage and decedents of, former slaves, London and Amy Jenkins. Their work has been hailed as "a national treasure that has preserved one of the oldest forms of African American cultural and religious expression with a direct link to African roots” by Robert H. Browning, Executive & Artistic Director of the World Music Institute, who notes that the group’s “performances in New York City over the past twenty-one years have held audiences spellbound and contributed to a greater understanding of early African American culture.”

The McIntosh County Shouters formed as a professional performing group in 1980. However, the “shouting” began centuries before, as after their ancestors had finished a long day's work on the plantation, they would come home and praise the fact that they had survived yet another day. Women would move in a counterclockwise direction while the men would act as clappers and bassers. This call-and-response means of communication was formed in the 18th and 19th centuries on the plantations as a means of communication amongst slaves. Often Biblical in nature, the songs and vignettes they shouted out could range from spirituals to conversations about a child’s illness or even death of a loved one. The tradition was handed down from generation to generation as the elders would teach the younger generation how to perform the authentic ring shouts. 

As the tradition grew, much attention was paid to the detail of performing these ring shouts and still today the group firmly believes in retaining the integrity of the authentic ring shout.  In 1980, an outsider made the discovery that this tradition was still being practiced amongst the community and taught to children. At that time, the McIntosh County Shouters were the last practitioners of this art form. 

The McIntosh Country Shouters are the recipients of both a 1993 National Heritage Fellowship, America’s highest honor for the traditional arts, as well as the 2010 Georgia Governor's Awards in the Humanities. The McIntosh County Shouters were featured on Art Rosenbaum's 2009 Grammy award winning Best Historical Album. Rosenbaum also wrote a book in 1998 entitled Shout Because You're Free which was largely based on this group.  They were awarded Master Artist status in New York City in 2008 by the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition, they were recently named Founding Members/Producers of Distinction for the Georgia Made Georgia Grown program.
McIntosh County Shouters