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Stories of Cultural Diversity | Meet Storyteller Joanna Winston

by Linda Montag-Olson, Eiteljorg public programs manager | Feb 13, 2014

Joanna Winston
 
Two historical characters of the West spring to life as actor/storyteller Joanna Winston shares their stories with delighted audiences. Winston is part of the Eiteljorg Museum to Classroom project, made possible with funding from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and Citizens Energy Group. Through the generosity of our sponsors, there is no charge for schools hosting Winston in the classroom.

Winston’s engaging performances, in which she transforms to “Stagecoach” Mary Fields or mountain man James Beckwourth, include singing, sign-language, and many more surprises.

“Stagecoach” Mary Fields was the first female mail carrier hired in the US, and she delivered mail in the Montana Territory from 1895 to 1903. Born a slave in Tennessee, Mary’s strength, courage and intelligence shine as Winston tells her story.

“Mary proved that even though she was African American and a woman, she was just as smart, and strong, and stubborn as any white man,” said Winston. “It’s such an honor to portray her life.”

Trader, trapper, trail blazer, James Beckwourth, is another character in Winston’s repertoire. Born the son of a white captain in the Revolutionary War and a black slave woman, he spoke three languages, lived with and fought with Crow Indians, and discovered a place for early pioneers to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.  Beckwourth Pass is still in use today as part of a California highway. 
 
“When I perform the Beckwourth story, I get to share my own experiences about growing up in a biracial household,” said Winston, the daughter of a white mother and an African American father. Joanna Winston“My hope is that my story resonates, and helps listeners to connect the lives of those past and present.”

Students and families, at the museum and at schools in the Indianapolis area, are amazed to find out that the West was so diverse. Through Eiteljorg curriculum, they also learn that at least 30 percent of cowboys were African American.

A Butler fine arts graduate, Winston shines during each performance. See her Saturday afternoons at the Eiteljorg. Classroom visits can be arranged for Thursday and Friday mornings through May 23 by calling 317.275.1350.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Joyce Fitzpatrick 10 Apr
    Hello Ms. Montag-Olson,

    My name is Joyce Fitzpatrick and I am an independent filmmaker .  Your site was referred to me by a fan of my documentary "Discovering Mary," and I wanted to compliment you on featuring the storyteller Ms. Joanna Winston who portrays Mary Fields aka "Stagecoach Mary" in a live-action one woman play.  I really appreciate your website's story about educators who are giving students a wide range of information about minorities who've made an impact in American history!
     Please take a look and "like" my Facebook page, which provides details, photos and a promotional video about my journey to Montana to discover the history and legend of Mary Fields. 

    Discovering Mary Link:
    http://goo.gl/AdUyY3

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