Sea Island Singers: Doug and Frankie Quimby

2000 Honorary Members
(inducted at the Society's annual meeting in Charleston, SC)

Through the work of Doug and Frankie Quimby, people young and old in the United States and around the world have come to understand the importance of the African-American contribution to American folklore and culture. Songs, games, stories, and epic narratives handed down from generation to generation come to life through this husband and wife team, known as the Georgia Sea Island Singers. They continue the tradition when other family members join them on occasion. Since their participation in the original Sea Island Singers led by Bessie Jones over thirty years ago, the Quimbys have broadened the scope of their impact from folk festivals to Carnegie Hall, from classrooms to the Olympic city of Lillehammer Norway. They are professionals who weave folklore and the oral tradition with their personal historical and geographic narratives. St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, is not only the place where the original Sea Island Singers were founded, but also the place where African slaves were brought as property to be auctioned off. The Quimbys conjure up before our eyes episodes from the lives, elements of distinctive cultural memory, and musical treasures of those early African-Americans. In their presentations we hear the songs of comfort, songs of manual labor, and songs for mutual enjoyment that the Sea Island Singers’ African ancestors left as a legacy to our nation. Now, many generations later, these songs often are designated traditional American songs in song anthologies. They are taught by music teachers throughout the country as part of the national repertory of songs that every American child knows. The Sea Island Singers remind us that the genesis of the songs that they sing is equally important as a part of our national heritage as is the beauty of their melodies. Songs then become the gateway to understanding the past and the future alike. This Honorary Membership is given to the Sea Island Singers in recognition of the work that they have done in keeping alive the unbroken musical tradition from the time of slavery through the twenty-first century. Their efforts have inspired and informed generations of Americans about the riches of their African musical heritage. We pay homage to their work and their legacy to American music.

Citation by Homer Rudolf

(Douglas Quimby died in 2006.)