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Information Center: About History Makers®

The HistoryMakers collection in Black Studies Center is a primary source archive of filmed oral history interviews of contemporary African Americans who have shaped modern history. The archive represents the authentic voices of a diverse group of African Americans who have made significant contributions to history and politics, education, law, the creative arts, science and medicine, business, the military, and sports. This resource allows users to see and hear candid, direct contemporary histories, adding a dynamic, human quality to research and education.

The HistoryMakers, a nonprofit organization founded in July 1999, has as its mission to educate and demonstrate the breadth and depth of the African American experience through first person narratives of both well-known and unsung African Americans. In doing so, The HistoryMakers's goal is to capture American history one person at a time, giving those involved their special place in history to educate the world about African American determination and achievement as well as about the importance of African American-led institutions, movements, and organizations. Not since the recording of former slaves during the WPA Movement of the 1930s, when teams of writers were sent throughout the Southern states to interview approximately 2,300 people, has there been such a methodic and wide-scale attempt to capture the testimonies of African Americans.

The ProQuest resource includes a carefully curated collection of 100 persons interviewed by The HistoryMakers, with videos and complete transcripts. The people included represent a wide range of experiences, locations, occupations, and subjects. Each interview video and corresponding transcript has been meticulously subject-indexed and segmented by The HistoryMakers' expert staff. The transcripts are fully searchable.

The collection may be browsed by the name of the interviewee, his or her occupation, subject and by theme. Each interview includes a record with details of the recording, indexed subjects, locations, and dates. Each record links to the transcript and video. The transcript and the video are sub-divided into segments which have been subject indexed according to topic discussed in the interview section. In addition, brief biographies are available from the full record page.

The HistoryMakers collection may be searched by keyword, across the name of the interviewee, occupation, subjects, location, and dates. After searching, the list of results allows user to view relevant video segments and read the transcript for those sections of video. Video clips may be created by the user and saved in MyArchive. In addition, the videos may be viewed with or without a running caption from the transcript.

For more information on how to use this resource, please view the demo, available in the Information Center.

The HistoryMakers organization


The HistoryMakers is a national, 501(c)(3) non-profit educational institution committed to preserving, developing and providing easy access to an internationally recognized archival collection of thousands of African American video oral histories. The purpose of this archive is to educate and to:

  • Show the breadth and depth of this important American history as told by the first person
  • Highlight the accomplishments of individual African Americans across a variety of disciplines
  • Showcase those who have played a role in African American led movements and/or organizations
  • Preserve this material for years and generations to come

The HistoryMakers is committed to creating and exposing its archival collection to the widest audience possible using collaborations as well as the Internet, a digital archive and other new technologies.

The HistoryMakers is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, a city rich in African American history, and was incorporated in July of 1999 by public historian, Julieanna L. Richardson, a Harvard trained lawyer, video producer and former American Studies major. Richardson combined her various work experiences, her passion for history and her diverse background in theatre, law, television production and the cable television industries to conceptualize, found and build The HistoryMakers. She serves today as Executive Director as well as a member of The HistoryMakers Board of Directors.

A HistoryMaker, African American by descent, is a person: 1) who has made significant accomplishments in his or her life; and/or 2) who is associated with a particular movement, organization, association, event or time that is important to the African American community.

While African Americans have made significant contributions to American life, society and culture, the world is still largely unaware of these contributions. The HistoryMakers goal is to change that by capturing the personal stories of African American contributors.

The HistoryMakers archive contains thousands of videotaped oral history interviews. On average, each HistoryMaker interview is roughly 2.5 to 3 hours in length and costs $2,500-$5,000 to produce. This includes the cost of background research, videotaping, editing, transcribing, encoding, digitizing, and archiving each interview. The interviews allow users to see and hear direct contemporary histories, adding a human quality to historical education.

For more information, please visit the website of The HistoryMakers.

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