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Missouri on Mic Special: Missouri's Tradition of Oral History and Storytelling

Rebecca Smith

In this 30-minute Special from KBIA’s Missouri on Mic, host Becca Newton spoke with Sean Rost from The State Historical Society of Missouri about our state’s tradition of oral history and storytelling.

We’ll be hearing both stories – and from storytellers across the state – about what drives them to keep this tradition alive.

Sean Rost, Oral Historian:

“It goes back to the beginning of the state, and even farther back in time. Oral traditions and oral history are mixed into our generations and in our heritage.”

“There's a lot of life lessons to be had from these various oral histories – people who have lived to be in their 90s and 100s have I've seen a lot of things and encountered a lot of things in their life."

"When people pass on, you know, there is a sense of loss and sadness, and the realization you're never going to hear someone's voice again, and we often have people who will contact us and say, ‘I just miss hearing their voice, I'd really like to hear it again.’”

“I always encourage people to not only take that shoebox full of documents and think about donating it to an archive at this historical society, but also finding a way to digitize it, if they can. So, it's not lost."

  • Gary Kuntz from Kansas City shared an Ozark folktale passed down from his father-in-law about the family dog, Dog, and how he miraculously survived a fluke hunting accident.
  • Kathleen Boswell from Sedalia is a retired teacher who’s loved author Laura Ingalls Wilder since the 5th grade. Today, she shares this love as a reenactor. She shared what it means to her to be a storyteller and the importance of remembering – and recognizing – our history.

  • Bard Alexander Silver wandered by in Carlingford Ireland, well, actually the Central Missouri Renaissance Festival in Kingdom City, in October. He shared a folktale about a mysterious Romani girl that his character met on his travels.
  • Linda Kuntz from Kansas City is a professional storyteller who focuses on Missouri history. She recounted a story about the Haun's Mill massacre during the Missouri Mormon Wars in the 1830s, and about how mother Amanda Barnes Smith’s faith saved her son.

Thanks to Sean Rost from The State Historical Society of Missouri for joining us.

Thanks to The Burney Sisters for providing our music.

And a special thanks to the entire Missouri on Mic team. The conversations you heard today were produced by Noah Zahn, Abigail Ruhman, Reagan Wiles and KBIA’s Rebecca Smith.

Becca Newton is a student reporter and producer at KBIA. They will graduate from the University of Missouri in spring 2022 with a degree in Multimedia Convergence Journalism and minors in Peace Studies and History.
Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
Abigail Ruhman is a reporter and afternoon newscast anchor for KBIA. They are working on a special series, and have produced for KBIA's Missouri on Mic and Missouri Health Talks in the past.
Noah Zahn is a student producer for KBIA and a junior at the University of Missouri-Columbia studying journalism and music.
Logan Franz is a student producer from Chicago studying broadcast sports journalism with a minor in English at Mizzou. His passion for radio came from listening to podcasts and he hopes to one day produce his own podcast.