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Shouting, Shaking and Loving Like Family

In Salvation South's story lineup this week, we do a deep dive into the Ring Shout — an essential piece of Southern culture. We throw in some Elvis Presley and Pat Conroy for a bonus.

After years of studying and writing about the culture of the South, I always recognize a central truth about our folklore: Without the traditions and art forms that enslaved Africans brought to our region, the richness of Southern culture could not exist.

We lead off this week’s Salvation South with a deep look at one of those traditions: the Ring Shout, a ritualized dance form whose roots run back to West Africa. Journalist Michael J. Solender writes that the Ring Shout’s “transcendent movement, gestures and song served as a collective outpouring of grief at the abduction from their homeland and traditions, and a commitment to maintaining their cultural roots and ancestral heritage.”

These days, Ring Shout practitioners such as Tamara Williams and Charmaine Minniefield — both of whom you will meet in our story — are adapting the dance as a method of healing and an expression of pure Black joy. 

I hope you’ll read this story and enjoy the several videos embedded inside it. 

We’ve also got longtime music critic Steve Dougherty’s remembrance of how the music of Elvis Presley shook him up when he was a child watching the dissolution of his family. Elvis, he argues beautifully, saved him. Thus the title of his essay, “Elvis Saves.” 

And finally, Jonathan Odell gives us a beautiful remembrance of the late great Southern writer Pat Conroy. Before Conroy’s death, Odell shared the stage with Pat at the Decatur Book Festival in Georgia and was amazed at how Conroy took the time to treat all of his fans like they were family.

We think we’ve assembled a fine collection of stories for your pleasure this week. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have. 

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About the author

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Chuck Reece is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Salvation South, the weekly web magazine you're reading right now. He was the founding editor of The Bitter Southerner. He grew up in the north Georgia mountains in a little town called Ellijay.

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