Friday, June 17, 2011

The Ringshout: African American Religion

A shout or ring shout is an ecstatic, transcendent religious ritual, first practiced by African slaves in the West Indies and the United States and their descendants, in which worshipers move in a circle while shuffling and stomping their feet and clapping their hands. Despite the name, shouting aloud is not an essential part of the ritual.

"Shouting" often took place during or after a Christian prayer meeting or worship service. Men and women moved in a circle in a counterclockwise direction, shuffling their feet, clapping, and often spontaneously singing or praying aloud. In Jamaica and Trinidad the shout was usually performed around a special second altar near the center of a church building. In the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina, shouters formed a circle outdoors, around the church building itself.[1] In some cases, slaves retreated into the woods at night to perform shouts, often for hours at a time, with participants leaving the circle as they became exhausted.[2] In the twentieth century some African-American churchgoers in the United States performed shouts by forming a circle around the pulpit[3], in the space in front of the altar, or around the nave in churches with fixed, immobile pews. (

The Ringshout & the Birth of African-American Religion

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