Folk Music Revival

“Kumbaya” and Dramatizations of an Etiological Legend

“Kumbaya” evolved from the African American spiritual “Come by Here.” A transcription by John Bocher, Jr., published in 1955, became the standard version. Howecer, it was widely believed to have been brought from Africa by a missionary. This article traces the origins of the most common origin legends, then looks at those that influenced behavior. It concludes with comments on the persisting belief in an African genesis.


A tribute to renown folk singer, Pete Seeger, and the author’s interactions with him over several years.