Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
December 7, 2017
115th Congress, 1st Session
Issue: Vol. 163, No. 200 — Daily Edition
Entire Issue (PDF)
RECOGNIZING THE SONG ``KUMBAYA''
(House of Representatives - December 07, 2017)
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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 200 (Thursday, December 7, 2017)] [Pages H9714-H9715] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] RECOGNIZING THE SONG ``KUMBAYA'' The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Carter) for 5 minutes. Mr. CARTER of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize a very important song to the history of the State of Georgia, ``Kumbaya.'' The first known recording of ``Kumbaya'' took place in 1926 near Darien, Georgia. The original name was ``Come By Here,'' but now the song is internationally known as ``Kumbaya.'' While the exact origin of the song is uncertain, scholars believe it originated with the Gullah Geechee people, who are descendants of enslaved African Americans who lived on the Sea Islands in the coastal regions of Georgia. It is largely believed that the song was a plea for God's intervention for this group of African Americans, asking Him to relieve them from a number of different hard times in the community: a sick family member, oppression, and more. Robert Winslow Gordon, a staff member and eventually founder of the Library of Congress' Archives of Folk Song, was temporarily living in Georgia in 1926 and took the first recording of ``Kumbaya'' on a wax cylinder recorder numbered A839, still located in the Library of Congress today. He recorded a person in the Gullah Geechee community named H. Wylie, who sang the lyrics: `` . . . need you Lord, come by here. Somebody need you, Lord, come by here . . . '' This recording of ``Kumbaya'' is one of the earliest items located in the Library of Congress' Archive of Folk Song. Today, Robert Winslow Gordon is buried in Darien, Georgia, home of that first recording of ``Kumbaya.'' Scholars think that ``come by here'' simply sounded like ``kumbaya'' to some listeners, a nonexistent word at the time that evolved into the song that we have here today. Other scholars think that the original song was not even ``come by here,'' but instead ``come by ya.'' Since that time, the song has spread throughout our Nation and the world. Recordings can even be found sung by Americans throughout all different times in our Nation's history. There are 1930s recordings from central Texas and in Florida, while many Americans were finding solace during the Jim Crow period. In the 1950s and 1960s, ``Kumbaya'' was sung by Pete Seeger; Peter, Paul, and Mary; and Joan Baez. The song has even been traced to Angola, transported by missionaries. Even today, ``Kumbaya'' means something different to different groups of people, but we should never forget the original meaning of the song and who we believe may be the original creators of the song, the Gullah Geechee people. The Gullah Geechee people live on the southeastern coast, from St. Augustine, Florida, up through Georgia and South Carolina, to their northernmost area of Wilmington, North Carolina. Most of these areas refer to the people as Gullah, but in Georgia, we call them Geechee. They are the direct descendants of enslaved Americans who arrived here from west and central Africa to produce rice for slaveholding Americans. There are many aspects of their culture that are unique, complex, and beautiful. Their language is based in creole and is the only distinctly African creole language in the United States. The Gullah Geechee people make sweetgrass baskets designed for rice production as a craft passed down to both men and women. Although this culture and their traditions have modernized since the 19th century and early 20th century in America, today you can still see the Gullah Geechee people weaving sweetgrass baskets and living their culture in other ways if you drive through coastal Georgia. I cannot overstate the importance this group of people has had on the development and history of the First Congressional District of Georgia, and I want to thank them for their contributions to this area. Further, as creators of the song ``Kumbaya,'' they have changed lives and have been a significant force not only in the First Congressional District of Georgia, but across the world and throughout American history. To recognize just how widespread this song has become, the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution officially stating the impact this song has had on our State. I hope you all will join me in our Nation's Capitol by also recognizing the importance of this song. I am very proud that it originated in the First Congressional District of Georgia, a district that I have the honor and privilege of representing. It is also an honor to have members of the Gullah Geechee community from my district here at the Capitol today. Welcome to our Nation's Capitol. Thank you for your contribution to our Nation's history. [[Page H9715]] ____________________