Talking about Culture Historian Recreates African-American Stories in Program

Article excerpt

One of Billye Reed Crumpton's earliest memories is traveling through rural Arkansas as a 4-year-old with her father, Richard Reed.

Reed was a teacher who set up schools in eastern Arkansas and lectured and showed exhibits on intercultural history to African-American schoolchildren.

Reed's philosophy was that children would communicate more effectively if they learned about a variety of cultures.

"I remember him using a battery-operated projector to show movies on the wall about different countries," Crumpton said. "He would tell the children that you can't grow if you only know about your own culture."

Crumpton's experiences with her father and grandfather, Alfonso Reed, who was also an educator, left her with a lifelong interest in history and in sharing stories, crafts and artifacts from a variety of cultures.

Crumpton, 66, of University City takes her intercultural exhibits and workshops to schools and organizations in St. Charles and the St. Louis metropolitan area.

She will join musician Glen "Papa" Wright from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Missouri First State Capitol, 200 South Main Street, St. Charles, for a musical and narrative presentation of African-American history.

Crumpton will talk about the codes and messages in old Negro spirituals and African-American personalities and events that shaped this country.

One of her subjects will be St. Louis designer and seamstress Elizabeth Keckley, who sewed for Mary Todd Lincoln and other Washington socialites in the 1860s. "I'll show the kind of dress Keckley designed for them and pictures of women wearing the dress," she said.

Crumpton's narration will be interspersed with marimba music by Wright. Included in his repertoire will be old hymns, spirituals and music from Broadway.

Highlighting his performance will be a rendition of the folk song "Kumbayah." Wright will invite members of the audience to join on various percussion instruments.

Tickets for the event are $3 and must be reserved in advance by calling 946-9282. …