Mama Linda Goss

Co-Founder and former President, National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS)

Born in Alcoa, Tennessee, currently, Mama Linda Goss is the storyteller ambassador for the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland and the storyteller-in-residence at the Peale Center. Named the 2019 National Heritage Fellow, Goss is known nationally. In 2019, Goss was honored by the American Folklore Society which hosted a forum entitled, “Black Storytelling and Cultural Preservation: The Legacy of Mama Linda Goss.” “Well, Oh Well, Oh Well. It’s Storytelling Time!” is her recognized legendary call. As a forerunner of the Black Storytelling Movement in America during the 1970s, she rang her bells and told her stories on the streets of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. As a community folklorist and activist, she believes “Black Storytelling is a combination of the oral, the written, and the rhythms of our people. It bends, it curves, not separating spirit from the art.”

In 1982, Mother Mary Carter Smith (1919-2007) and Goss founded the “In the Tradition…” Annual National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference in Baltimore. The co-founders understood the need to institute an organizational structure to perpetuate African diasporic storytelling and began the Association for Black Storytellers in 1984 in Philadelphia, which developed into the National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS). The annual festival continues today and has taken place in communities across the United States.

Goss is the author of seven books, including co-editing Talk That Talk: An Anthology of African-American Storytelling with Marian E. Barnes and with an introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Significant works appear in other anthologies, and she has two albums of storytelling with Smithsonian Folkways.

Next generation storytellers across the country continue to benefit from Goss’s mentorship and oral history projects. She has been awarded master/apprenticeship fellowships with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and twice received the Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Award. She also developed How We Got Over, a project of the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture funded by Maryland Traditions to conduct interviews with Baltimore storytellers about their school experiences.

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