Statement from the National Endowment for the Arts on the Death of Lawrence McKiver, patriarch of the McIntosh County Shouters, recipient of a 1993 NEA National Heritage Fellowship
It is with great sadness that the National Endowment for the Arts acknowledges the passing of Lawrence McKiver, patriarch of the McIntosh County Shouters. This group received an NEA National Heritage Fellowship in 1993 and are one of the last, active practitioners of this African-American song and movement tradition known as the "shout," or the "ring shout." Born in 1915, McKiver grew up with the other members of the McIntosh County Shouters in the rural area around Briar Patch, Georgia. In explaining the origins of the shout, McKiver, the last living member of the original McIntosh County Shouters, said, "In slavery times, the old folks couldn't talk to each other. They had to make signs ... make the sounds we singing. That's why we sing in these old slavery sounds ... they couldn't talk so they sang a song and they'd get together underneath the song that we're gonna sing." Since 1980, the group has performed around the country in order to educate and share this tradition with others. The McIntosh County Shouters continue to perform today with a group made up of descendants and relatives of the original McIntosh County Shouters. The NEA joins many others in the folk and traditional arts community and beyond in mourning McKiver's death while celebrating his life and music.