International Storytelling Center Hosts New Freedom Stories Toolkit, Discussion

(Jonesborough, Tenn.) – The International Storytelling Center (ISC), home to the world-renowned National Storytelling Festival and Storytelling Live! Teller-in-Residence series, is proud to announce the launch of their Freedom Stories Toolkit, a living compendium of multimedia resources to support their popular Freedom Stories initiative exploring the Black heritage of Appalachia.

Freedom Stories is an ongoing series that illuminates the underappreciated and neglected stories of African Americans in Appalachian history and highlights the role that face-to-face storytelling has played in both African and Appalachian cultures. Through online events, the project marries performance and discussion, connecting prominent Black storytellers, artists, humanities scholars, and community experts with the public to trace the rich history of African Americans in Appalachia—from the first African arrivals in Appalachia, to the shaping of a distinct culture, to the struggles for freedom and equality.

The Freedom Stories Toolkit includes free resources developed by and for each of the online Freedom Stories events including recorded performances, discussions, slide show presentations, information about each contributor, and links to external resources. More materials will be available in the future including curriculum guides, book lists, and other resources prepared by scholars and experts that organizations and individuals across the globe can use for facilitating similar community collaborations. It is ISC’s hope that these materials will help urgent humanities discussions reach larger audiences in and beyond Central Appalachia. All resources in the toolkit are free for educational and non-commercial use, and can be accessed at

 As the nation learns to grapple with difficult truths, this free public toolkit will serve as a model for how to engage in productive discussions around complex topics. Dr. Alicestyne Turley, Freedom Stories Project Director, describes the toolkit as “a way to keep the conversation going.” As an on-going resource, the Freedom Stories Toolkit will provide individuals, communities, and organizations with valuable resources to open, develop, and continue dialogues long after the twelve planned Freedom Stories public discussions end. “It is our intent,” Turley says, “to continually update the toolkit and add new information, stories, and events connected to all we’ve learned and may continue to learn. Hopefully, the toolkit can serve to keep us all connected and growing toward greater unity, understanding, and communication.”

In addition to the toolkit, ISC will host its next Freedom Stories discussion titled, Separate but Equal? Race-based Bias in Education. Through performance and discussion with Emmy Award-winning storyteller, Bobby Norfolk; Langston Centre Director, Adam Dickson; and Green McAdoo Cultural Center Director, Adam Velk, we will examine the effects of segregation and integration—both positive and negative—on public education in Appalachia and how these still impact society today. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Alicestyne Turley.

The live discussion will take place on March 13th, from 1-2:30 pm EST on the International Storytelling Center’s Facebook timeline and will be followed by a public Q & A. The discussion will be recorded and made available post-event in the new toolkit.

Kiran Singh Sirah, President of ISC, says these Freedom Stories discussions are important to the region in the context of the national storytelling movement. “Storytelling is certainly entertaining,” says Sirah, “but storytelling is also a means of cultural preservation, it is a peacebuilding tool, it can help facilitate important discussions around difficult topics and help us unpack complex histories…. Just like our nation, Appalachia is a tapestry of stories, and programs and toolkits like this can help us listen more closely and celebrate the rich diversity of our narratives.”

Freedom Stories is funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Discussions Grant, an award based on projects that bring the ideas and insights of the humanities to life for general audiences. ISC would like to thank the following organizations for their support of the Freedom Stories Project: National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS), Appalachian African American Cultural Center, Black in Appalachia, Black/White Dialogue, Green McAdoo Cultural Center, Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee & Southwest Virginia, Langston Centre, Leadership and Civic Engagement at East Tennessee State University, McKinney Center, Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association, and the Town of Jonesborough.

To learn more about the International Storytelling Center and upcoming Freedom Stories programming, please visit

Image credit to Hillhouse Creative.