The history of the griot


Harry Colbert

Harry Colbert

In West Africa – as a descendent of enslaved human beings in America, the place I’m most likely to have ancestral roots – there’s a word to describe what I do as a profession.

But more than what I do, it’s who I am.

That word is griot. The griot is the storyteller … the historian. Regularly, people would gather around the griot and he, she or they would pass down the stories, histories and customs of the village communities. The griot is held in high regard, revered as an elder entrusted to impart wisdom and knowledge throughout the land.


I humbly and proudly consider myself an American griot. But today the griots are under attack. No longer revered, American journalists are being demonized and vilified at almost every turn. And in many ways, it’s our own fault. More concerned with sensationalism and celebrity than the story itself, in America it seems the griot has lost sight of the true calling.

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That’s why I’m so grateful to be a part of MinnPost. At MinnPost it’s not just the story, but the story behind the story. It’s not the who and the what, but the why and the how. It’s not about the storyteller, but the story itself.

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