Bobby Norfolk | St. Louis Public Radio

Bobby Norfolk

Storyteller Bobby Norfolk once worked as a park ranger at The Arch. The lack of represenation of York in the Museum of Westward Expansion helped inspire his current performance.
File photo | Provided | Bobby Norfolk

Who were the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition across the Western United States? The obvious answer is Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. But many likely don't know that an enslaved African played a crucial third role.

Lewis and Clark are famous for undertaking the “Corps of Discovery” in the early 1800s. But another man, York, typically only receives a footnote in history books.

St. Louis storyteller Bobby Norfolk wants the change that. In our latest Cut & Paste arts and culture podcast, we talk with Norfolk, whose Sept. 15 storytelling event at The Link Auditorium in the Central West End focuses on York’s experience, which included adventure, hardship and terrible mistreatment.

Storyteller Bobby Norfolk's 'Take the A Train' opens Jan. 10, 2015.
Courtesy of Bobby Norfolk

To Bobby Norfolk, three-time Emmy Award-winning television host, standup comedian, living history park ranger with the National Park Service and storyteller on the national scene, storytelling is no laughing matter.

“It is missionary work,” Norfolk told Steve Potter on Thursday’s “St. Louis on the Air.” If you go into storytelling, it is a serious, serious endeavor.”

Storyteller Bobby Norfolk's 'Take the A Train' opens Jan. 10, 2015.
Courtesy of Bobby Norfolk

It’s said that the arts can heal. Storyteller Bobby Norfolk is working on finding out if it’s true with Ferguson.

Norfolk is collaborating with producer Beverly Brennan on a yearlong series highlighting the talents of black and white performing artists starting with “Take the ‘A’ Train,” a tour of the Harlem Renaissance.

photo by Aaron Doerr

Bobby Norfolk was driving somewhere in 2009 when NPR's Fresh Air stopped him in his tracks.  He remembers the interview with author Larry Tye as "the most compelling hour of listening" he's ever experienced. Tye's biography of Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige started Norfolk on a journey that's culminated in his latest one man show,  Shadowball: The Negro Baseball Leagues.