Lois Conley founded the Griot Museum of Black History in 1997, to collect, preserve, and share the stories, culture and history of Black people - particularly those with a regional connection to American history. The museum is aptly named after a West African term for storyteller, “griot”. The Griot uses life-size wax figures, other art, artifacts and memorabilia to interpret the stories of African Americans.

More than twenty years later, Conley continues to find new ways of telling these stories.

In 2019, the Griot Museum was selected as one of the first grant recipients of the Arts and Education Council’s Creative Impact Fund for Diversifying the Arts program. With this funding, they will produce an illustrated booklet explaining how the museum came to be, from its foundation to the 25 exhibits it now contains that highlight the stories of prominent and influential African Americans.

The booklet will be created by local artists Bill Murphy, Kenneth Calvert and Solomon Thurman, Jr. These artists have spent their careers working to connect history to the arts. Each brings their own unique point of view, with ranging styles.

Calvert shared his excitement to be working on this project, “Being a product of the segregated school system and having all Black teachers, I knew they would always provide me with extra information about our people that wasn’t in the textbook. This work is the extra nugget of truth that isn’t in the textbooks.”

Lois added that having so many different perspectives to tell the story is invigorating. The story won’t stop there. Community members will have the opportunity to attend workshops about narrating and illustrating their life stories.

Murphy, Calvert and Thurman are currently working to create the booklet that will be available in May. Initially, museum visitors will receive the booklet with the price of admission, but it will remain available in the museum gift shop after its initial launch.

Learn more about the Griot Museum of Black History at thegriotmuseum.com.

Your gift to the Arts and Education Council furthers our ability to invest in our community and make the St. Louis region a more vibrant arts community for all.

Give today