The History Makers
Since 1999, The HistoryMakers has been recording African American oral histories to refashion a more inclusive record of American history and to educate and enlighten millions worldwide.
At its core The HistoryMakers is committed to preserving and making widely accessible the untold personal stories of both well-known and unsung African Americans. Here is how we do it.
Our Founder, Julieanna L. Richardson, had a dream to create a unique and timeless archive. From Brandeis University to Harvard Law School to the Chicago Cable Commission; this is her story.
Before founding The HistoryMakers in 1999, Richardson was a successful cable television executive and corporate lawyer. She was the founder and CEO of both SCTN Teleproductions, which served as the local production arm for C-SPAN, and Shop Chicago Inc., which set standards for regional TV home-shopping ventures and received international attention with its combination of home shopping and infomercial formats. Richardson resides in Chicago.
By recording, preserving and sharing the life stories of thousands of African Americans, from President Barack Obama to the oldest living black cowboy, The HistoryMakers is a leader in helping to educate and enlighten millions worldwide through refashioning a more inclusive record of American history.
Julieanna L. Richardson followed a unique path in heading up the largest national collection effort of African American video oral histories on record. With a diverse background in theatre, television production, and the cable television industries, she combined her various work experiences and her passion for history to conceptualize, found and build The HistoryMakers. The HistoryMakers is a national, 501(c)(3) non-profit educational institution based in Chicago, committed to preserving, developing, and providing easy access to an internationally recognized archival collection of thousands of African American video oral histories. Richardson serves as the Founder and Executive Director of The HistoryMakers as well as a member of the The HistoryMakers National Board of Directors.
Richardson founded The HistoryMakers in 1999, and started doing interviews in February of 2000. She sits on the Honors Council of Lawyers for the Creative Arts, and in 2011, was appointed to the Comcast NBC Universal African American Diversity Council. In May 2012, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Howard University during their 144th Commencement Convocation.
“I wanted to accomplish something comprehensive,” she said. “Within each person lies many different stories. . . . We believe out of that patchwork will emerge a new and more accurate version of our history, a history that will have a lot more voices, a lot more people, a lot more themes, a lot more understanding, of even the issue of our slave past which this nation has yet to deal with.”
Housed at 1900 S. Michigan, the HistoryMakers’ interview archives can be scanned for information about different subjects.
Digital archive documents Black America’s legacy
In June 2014, the Library of Congress announced that it had acquired a video archive of thousands of hours of interviews that captures African-American life, history and culture as well as the struggles and achievements of the black experience. The interview collection is from The HistoryMakers, a nonprofit research and educational institution founded in 1999 that is committed to preserving, developing and providing easy access to an internationally recognized, archival collection of thousands of African-American video oral histories. The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington said, “The HistoryMakers archive provides invaluable first-person accounts of both well-known and unsung African-Americans, detailing their hopes, dreams and accomplishments—often in the face of adversity. This culturally important collection is a rich and diverse resource for scholars, teachers, students and documentarians seeking a more complete record of our nation’s history and its people.”