RECOGNIZING THE SONG ``KUMBAYA''; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 200
(House of Representatives - December 07, 2017)

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[Pages H9714-H9715]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                    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 
  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.

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