THE DIGITAL REPOSITORY FOR THE BLACK EXPERIENCE

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Our Mission

The HistoryMakers is a national 501©(3) non-profit research and educational institution committed to preserving and making widely accessible the untold personal stories of both well-known and unsung African Americans. Through the media and a series of user-friendly products, services and events, The HistoryMakers enlightens, entertains and educates the public, helping to refashion a more inclusive record of American history.

Our mission is to Educate the world on the accomplishments of African Americans through video oral history interviews. The HistoryMakers was founded to address the lack of documentation and preservation of the African American historical record. Prior to the start of interviews in 2000, there was only one large-scale methodic attempt during the 20th century to capture African American history from a first-person perspective – the WPA Slave Narratives, housed at the Library of Congress. Nearly a century of African American achievements and struggles had gone undocumented at the time of our founding. 

The HistoryMakers was born out of our founder’s dream to address this problem, by capturing – one person at a time – the untold personal stories of both well-known and unsung African Americans, and by creating a priceless video collection giving those involved their special place in history.  The testimonies captured in The HistoryMakers Collection – conducted in homes and offices across the United States and abroad – reveal the broad scope of narratives of African American men and women who have made significant contributions to American life, history, and culture during the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Many of these contributions have largely been untold and unrecorded; and, as a result, are still largely “unknown”. They are “America’s Missing Stories.”

People

Our work is guided by some of the best minds in the country and it takes talent, commitment, passion, hard work and a team to do what we do.

FAQ

What is the mission of The HistoryMakers? Why was The HistoryMakers established?
You may have the same questions as others. Find the answers to frequently asked questions here.

ANNUAL REPORT

In 2021, amidst an ever-changing landscape, The HistoryMakers significantly grew its infrastructure, reach and impact.

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OUR ORGANIZATION

The HistoryMakers is now the single largest collection of African American first person video oral history testimony in the world. A 501©(3) nonprofit educational institution, The HistoryMakers is committed to preserving, developing, and providing easy access to its internationally recognized archival collection of thousands of African American video oral histories. By recording the stories of both the well-known and unsung from diverse backgrounds, The HistoryMakers seeks to preserve and elevate the cultural equity of the African American community, as well as to increase the cultural understanding of present and future generations.

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OUR SIGNIFICANCE

Over nearly two decades, The HistoryMakers has assembled a collection of over 3,000 and growing interviews (10,000 hours of first person testimony), to educate the world about African American life, history, and culture. The HistoryMakers is a vitally important treasure trove of insights, career paths, role models, and perspectives. These stories, now and well into the future, will provide a more complete understanding of who we are as Americans, as well as where we have come from, and where we are going as a nation. An integral part of the American experience, The HistoryMakers’ stories are stories of success against the odds, of achievement in the face of adversity, and of inspiration.

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OUR COLLECTION

Recorded in over 413 cities and towns across the country (and in international locations like Norway and Mexico), the video oral histories in our collection, and in The HistoryMakers Digital Archive, range from 90 minutes to 15 hours in length, and are housed permanently at the Library of Congress, which became The HistoryMakers permanent repository in 2014.

The Librarian of Congress called The HistoryMakers “a culturally important collection” that 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.” Now, the two largest efforts to record the African American experience in the first-person (the WPA Slave Narratives and The HistoryMakers Collection) are both housed under the same roof…bringing the stories of the enslaved together with those of their descendants. This unparalleled primary source collection provides unparalleled access to extraordinary testimonies like those of:

  • Vernon Jordan escorting Charlayne Hunter-Gault as she integrated the University of Georgia;
  • Hidden Figures’ Katherine Johnson’s calculation of John Glenn’s orbit;
  • 211 of the nation’s top scientist’s, like chemist Krishna Foster;
  • Angela Davis’ false accusation, capture, imprisonment, and acquittal;
  • Artist innovator Theaster Gates and museum director Thelma Golden;
  • Alonzo Pettie, then the oldest living black cowboy;
  • Investor Robert F. Smith and entrepreneur Daymond John;
  • And the stories of Harry Belafonte, Mellody Hobson, Savion Glover, Melissa Harris-Perry, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Charles Blow, Whoopie Goldberg,
  • James Earl Jones, and President Barack Obama (while he was still an Illinois State Senator), among thousands of others.