Linda Goss was born near the Smoky Mountains in an aluminum factory town, Alcoa, Tennessee. She grew up listening to the storytelling of her grandfather Murphy, who shared stories of life under slavery as well as a heritage of folk tales. She continues to tell some of the stories that she learned from her family. (One of her childrens books, The frog who wanted to be a singer, is a retelling of her fathers favorite story). Her education in storytelling began in her family in the way that her grandfather told stories ("He would always tell a story by asking a question. . . . He would make voices, imitate characters, make faces. . .) and in the repertoires and narrative habits of other family members and neighbors. Her grandfather told stories only to Linda and her brother. A strong and harsh man, he was, however, the subject of many stories both inside and outside the family, and Linda came up learning this heritage of family folklore, oral history, and legend, as well. Stories about ethical values, courtship, the civil rights struggle in Tennessee, stories from personal experience, and play-party songs, and hundreds of stories that she has gathered over decades of serious study and performance of stories, are now in her repertoire.
She has been named the Official Storyteller of Philadelphia. A pioneer of the contemporary storytelling movement, she was co-founder of "In the tradition. . ." the National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference, and The National Association of Black Storytellers, a founding member of Keepers of the Culture (a Philadelphia-area affiliate of NABS), and of Patchwork: a Storytelling Guild, the author of numerous books, and a contributor to numerous collections on African American storytelling. She has two Folkways recordings to her credit. She performs widely. She is the recipient of the 2003 Oracle Lifetime Achievement Award in Storytelling from the National Storytelling Network, and has received a grant as a master artist to work with an apprentice, through the PA Council on the Arts. She holds an undergraduate degree from Howard University, Washington, D.C. and a Masters degree from Antioch University. She has been an Artist-In-Residence at the Rosenbach Museum, and at PFP. She was a featured artist in the Humanities on the Road series produced by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. Watch a video clip here.
Click here for a high-resolution image. Photo: Linda Goss by Debora Kodish