PhillyFolk Artists

Linda Goss

African American Storyteller

Linda Goss is a storyteller who uses the medium to inspire people to respond to inequity in the world and to share a vision for hope, freedom, healing, and justice. Linda’s stories are in the tradition of her African and African American ancestors, and tell of how people make choices in the face of power inequities. Her repertoire is vast, with stories ranging from those passed down to her by family members, to oral histories, folktales from African American oral traditions, and original pieces. She is an agent for social change: her storytelling legitimizes and validates everyday stories, naming people’s experiences. Her art is built upon the transformative power of storytelling, encouraging all people to acknowledge, know, and express their own stories, which she sees as a radical act in these repressive times. After an experience in 1982, when she was one of two Black storytellers at a national storytelling gathering, Linda organized with Mary Carter Smith to create their own festival, In the Tradition: National Festival of Black Storytelling, which, in 1984, gave birth to the National Association of Black Storytellers, established as a space to bring out stories from the community. That same year, Linda was named the Official Storyteller of Philadelphia by this city’s mayor. She has worked for over 30 years in the Philadelphia community, from circles for mothers to share stories of murdered children to intergenerational residencies to circles for breast cancer survivors. She also documented community stories in North Philadelphia with the Village of Art and Humanities’ Bearing Witness: Invoking Spirit, Embracing Memory project. In 2003 she received the Oracle Lifetime Achievement Award for Storytelling from the National Storytelling Network. She is the author of six books, including Talk That Talk, Jump Up and Say, The Frog Who Wanted to be a Singer, and Sayin’ Somethin.’ In 2019, Ms. Goss was recognized with the nation’s highest honor for traditional artists, being named selected as a National Heritage Fellow, awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts.