A Separate Flame

Western Branch: The First African American Public Library

The Cotter Storytelling Contest

Joseph Cotter with students and the Cotter Cup
Joseph S. Cotter, Sr: Biographical Sketch of a Black Louisville Bard, by Ann Allen Shockley, CLA Journal, March 1975, Vol. 18, No. 3, pg. 334

It has been said that one of renowned Louisville educator and poet Joseph Cotter’s “greatest and most memorable gifts to the city of Louisville” was the founding of an annual storytelling contest at the Western Branch in 1913. The ‘storytelling bee,’ as it was often referred, was a way to encourage young children to read and learn through the art of storytelling. A perfect marriage of books, literacy, and libraries, to win the Cotter Storytelling Contest, local children must attend a minimum of eight library storytimes, check out books, go to school regularly, and then be able to recite a story they had heard in a storytime. In addition to cash prizes, winners names were engraved onto the ‘Cotter Cup.’

Children's Story Hour with Mama Yaa

Nana Yaa Asantewaa, an international storyteller, artist, and workshop facilitator, is affectionately known throughout her travels as "Mama Yaa." She is a native of Kentucky where she acquired her love for stories and the arts from her family. Over a span of 40 years, she has shared her artistry in the Virgin Islands, the African countries of Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Gambia, and Gabon. She is a past recipient of the distinguished Governor's Community Artist Award and the City of Louisville "Merit Award." Her storytelling has been featured at the prestigious "Gullah Festival" in Beaufort, South Carolina; PANAFEST in Ghana, West Africa; Indiana University Southeast Ogle Center; the National Black Family Conference; and on KET. Nana Yaa Asantewaa is a member of the National Association of Black Storytellers.