DIAMOND, Mo. — A cross section of the American story awaits visitors attending the annual storytelling festival at George Washington Carver National Monument.
The event, slated for Friday and Saturday, brings together six speakers to portray historical figures such as Cesar Chavez, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Langston Hughes. The festival, now in its fourth year, began as a way to celebrate the centennial birthday of the National Park Service.
Park ranger Curtis Gregory said the success of the first festival in 2016 led officials to continue the offerings as an annual event.
“We have a diverse group of people showcasing the amazing stories of America throughout history,” Gregory said. “It’s a full weekend, with very diverse individuals sharing the American story.”
This year’s living history speakers include Greg Carr as James Milton Turner; Bobby Norfolk, who will share poetry of Langston Hughes and others from the Harlem Renaissance; Fred Blanco as Cesar Chavez; Paxton Williams, who focuses on Paul Laurence Dunbar; and Rebecca Now as Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
The festival also includes Michael Pahsetopah, a member of the Osage tribe and an award-winning dancer, storyteller and flute player. Pahsetopah will introduce stories of the Circle, giving listeners a new understanding of Native American culture through dance, storytelling and music.
“We try to find different people throughout American history,” Gregory said, adding that he hopes the different speakers will not only provide new information for those in attendance but also spark an interest in further study.
Now’s presentation of Stanton, a suffragist, is to help kick off next year’s 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
“These are a lot of interesting people in American history who helped shape the country,” Gregory said. “We have everything from poets, civil rights leaders, woman suffragists, and a Native American to tell that story.
“Each story is unique and remains relevant today. We’re still fighting for civil rights, women’s rights and Native American issues. So we continue to tell the stories.”
• 6 p.m.: Greg Carr, "Stand on the Promises: James Milton Turner and the Promise of America." Turner was a prominent 19th century African American leader from St. Louis who, after being secretly educated, helped establish schools for African Americans after the Civil War. He was also appointed as the U.S. minister to Liberia by President Ulysses S. Grant.
• 7 p.m.: Bobby Norfolk, "The Poetry and Prose of Harlem" and "Dreams Deferred." Norfolk will present a selection of African American art, music and poetry through the works coming from Harlem in the early 20th century.
11 a.m.: Fred Blanco, "The Stories of Cesar Chavez." Blending fact with fiction, Blanco portrays Chavez and others who were part of the United Farm Workers movement, beginning with Chavez’s first hunger strike.
Noon: Paxton Williams, "The Works of Paul Laurence Dunbar." Williams, former executive director of the Carver Birthplace Association, performs as the poet, novelist and playwright Paul Laurence Dunbar.
1 p.m.: Rebecca Now, "The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Women’s Rights Movement." Now performs as Stanton, a suffragist, social activist, abolitionist and leading figure of the early women’s rights movement.
2 p.m.: Michael Pahsetopah, "Stories from the Circle." A member of the Osage tribe, Pahsetopah uses a variety of techniques to tell stories of his tribe and Native Americans.
If you go
The storytelling event is free and open to the public. It will take place in the park’s multipurpose room. George Washington Carver National Monument is located 2 miles west of Diamond on Route V, then a quarter mile south on Carver Road. For more information, call 417-325-4151.