HistoryMakers Makes History in Chicago

Thomas and Madeleine Burrell,Julieanna Richardson,Executive Director of HistoryMakers and a distinguished gentleman.
Thomas and Madeleine Burrell,Julieanna Richardson,Executive Director of HistoryMakers and  distinguished gentleman Howard Dodson.

Nation’s largest African American oral history archive held first National Advisory Board Planning Summit in Chicago to expand HistoryMakers archives

Last month The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African American video oral history archive, convened its first National Advisory Board Planning Summit in Chicago, Illinois, at the Palmer House Hilton.  Those who assembled in Chicago represented  24 cities  across the United States. There were more than  thirty National Advisory Board members  including  former presidential diarist Janis F. Kearney from Little Rock, journalists Randall Pinkston and Roz Abrams from New York, advertising executives Thomas and Madeleine Burrell from Chicago, and civic leaders Bernard & Shirley Kinsey from Los Angeles.

This first planning  Summit of the  National Advisory Board established a coherent, effective board that will expand significantly the reach and impact of The HistoryMakers organization.

Advisory Board members were first introduced  to the HistoryMakers offices and archives. On Thursday evening  they met and greeted on another at a  reception and dinner held at the Palmer House Hilton. They continued their formality during Friday with a full working-day of presentations, discussion, and the formation of regional and national action plans.

Julieanna Richardson Executive Director of HistoryMakers in  black laughs as she shares the archival vault to members
Julieanna Richardson Executive Director of The HistoryMakers in black laughs as she opened up the archival vault to members.

The Advisory Board Planning Summit resulted in action plans for each of the represented regions around the country focused on the areas of resources, partnerships, and cross-regional collaboration, to continue national growth of HistoryMakers throughout the country. The collection began as the brainchild of Lawyer and television producer Julieanna Richardson who launched the non-profit The History Makers in 1999 to preserve the oral histories of Black Americans. She says that her motivation and intention was inspired by her desire,  that   ” . . . the African-American child  understand its roots but I also want mainstream America to understand the contributions of Black people in this country.” 

Since its inception The History Makers has been collecting the interviews for years, quizzing people from the oldest living black cowboy to late poet Maya Angelou, from President Obama when he was an Illinois state senator to a survivor of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, and from activist/educator Angela Davis to late actress/activist Ruby Dee.

Recently The History Makers designated  the collection to the Library of Congress to serve as its permanent repository.

The HistoryMakers collection has reached over 2,700 life oral histories with a goal  of 5000 and is seeking to implement a more strategic and methodical approach to the acquisition of further interviews. Geographically, The HistoryMakers collection is not yet representative, with nearly 1,100 interviews coming from three cities – Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. The Summit solidified plans to correct this imbalance, The HistoryMakers has embarked on its new initiative to develop a presence in key regions across the nation.

   “I am very happy about the direction The HistoryMakers is taking to expand its reach, as we continue to record the contributions of African-Americans across the country,” says Ms. Richardson.

The HistoryMakers is a national 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 HistoryMakers is the single largest archival collection of its kind in the world, designed to promote and celebrate the successes of African Americans, and to document movements, events and organizations that are important to the African-American community and to American society.

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