November 11, 2005
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.—Onawumi Jean Moss, associate dean of students at Amherst College, has received the Zora Neale Hurston Award for Storytelling, the highest award given by the National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS). This award is given in acknowledgement of a body of work that preserves the tenets of African and African American storytelling through performance, publications, recordings and service to national and regional storytelling organizations. Previous recipients have included the legendary theatrical couple of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and Oscar Brown Jr., jazz singer and storyteller.

Known professionally as Onawumi Jean Moss, The Soulful Storyteller, Moss is also the founder and director of the Keepers of the Word Storytelling Festival, an annual event in Amherst. With her original stories, fairy tales, cautionary tales, folk tales and personal narratives, she encourages appreciation of cultural differences, pride of heritage, recognition of kinship, reflection and inquiry. Her soulful narration, a capella singing, dramatic facial expressions and animated movements bring to life the worlds of adventurous girls and women, charming creatures, scheming tricksters and wicked demons.

Her new book, Precious and the Boo Hag (2005), a collaboration with acclaimed author Patricia C. McKissack and illustrator Kysten Booker, was praised in the School Library Journal as “an enchanting tale that is a pinch scary but a peck of fun,” and Booklist noted it had “the grand feel of a folktale.” Precious and the Boo Hag was recently selected by the New York Public Library as one of its top 100 “must- read” books, an honor given to the best achievements in children's publishing.