Just over twenty years ago, visionary attorney Julieanna Richardson looked around and saw that much of the public knowledge of the Black experience and the contributions of African Americans was extremely limited and in some instances, harmful to American society as a whole. So she set out to research, gather information and interviews and document and preserve achievements and history. This effort led Richardson to found the national, 501 non-profit educational institution, The HistoryMakers, for which she now serves as executive director.
“America sat at a critically important crossroads where racist ideology was on the rise and documentation and preservation of 20th century African American life, history and culture risked being lost forever if action was not taken,” said Richardson. She noted that many key public figures were passing away without having their stories documented and preserved for the benefit of succeeding generations. Thus, The HistoryMakers was born.
The organization consists of several sections such as Medicine, Politics, Business, Law, Science, Theater and Entertainment. RogerEbert.com publisher Chaz Ebert serves as a co-chair of the EntertainmentMakers Advisory Committee along with Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the former President (and first African-American to hold that office) of the Oscars organization, AMPAS (Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences).
Today, The HistoryMakers, headquartered in Chicago, is the nation’s largest African American video oral history archive and depository. With education as its mission, its one-of-a-kind collection is housed permanently at the Library of Congress and provides an unprecedented and irreplaceable physical and online record of African American lives, accomplishments, and contributions through unique first-person testimony. Last December, to increase public understanding and awareness, The HistoryMakers presented a virtual convening of some of the nation’s top African American thought leadership. Hosted on YouTube and Facebook, The HistoryMakers 20@2020: 20 Days and 20 Nights shone a light on the urgency of this mission as well as providing a first time, behind the scenes view of The HistoryMakers organization, its digital archives and educational initiatives and its iconic “An Evening With…” PBS-TV programs.