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 our 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.”
“The HistoryMakers has been a champion for those that are often overlooked by the broader community, gathering the stories of African Americans, so that their experiences could be shared and preserved for future generations. The hard work of The HistoryMakers is an inspiration to us all.”
The HistoryMakers is now the single largest collection of African American first person video oral history testimony in the world. A 501(c)(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.
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.
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:
• On March 10, 2016, The HistoryMakers received word that an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant for $725,000was approved by the Mellon Foundation's Board of Directors.
• An Evening With Valerie Jarrett: taped on April 9, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois at the Art Institute of Chicago. The event was The HistoryMakers' largest Chicago fundraiser to date.
• On April 24, 2016, The HistoryMakers convened its first in-person Higher Education Advisory Board meeting in New York City.
• On September 13, 2016, The HistoryMakers was awarded a $100,000 grant by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation to redevelop the front end of The HistoryMakers' public website and online presence.
• The HistoryMakers traveled to Atlanta for a Salute to Atlanta HistoryMakers on October 4, 2016 at The Carter Center.
• An Evening With Eric Holder: taped on October 15, 2016 in Washington, D.C. at the George Washington University's Jack Morton Auditorium.
• A Night With Mayor Sylvester Turner, In Salute To Houston HistoryMakers was a one-on-one interview with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and hosted by ChaseSource CEO Anthony Chase.
• On February 2, 2017, the City of Chicago and the Chicago Public Library hosted a special press event at the Harold Washington Library to announce the offering of The HistoryMakers Digital Archive free of charge to all Chicago library patrons.
• On February 5 and 6, 2017, The HistoryMakers held its second Higher Education Advisory Board meeting in New York City.
• The HistoryMakers held several special receptions to honor HistoryMakers in cities across the country including Miami, Florida; Dallas, Texas; Birmingham, Alabama; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; New Orleans, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Denver, Colorado and Columbus, Ohio.
• Hosted by actress/director Regina Taylor and actor/producer Harry Lennix, An Evening With The HistoryMakers: Chicago Stories was taped on April 22, 2017 at the Art Institute of Chicago.
• For the first time, The HistoryMakers exhibited at the American Library Association conference and at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History conference where they also hosted a roundtable discussion entitled The HistoryMakers: Answering Woodson's Call Through the Digital Humanities.
• On August 15, 2017, The HistoryMakers hosted a program and panel discussion on Martha's Vineyard in partnership with the Martha's Vineyard Museum and Toyota Motor Sales.
• An Evening With Franklin Thomas: taped on November 11, 2017 at the AXA Equitable Center in New York City.
• On December 18, 2017,The HistoryMakersco-sponsored a select screening of 'Revival!' at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Illinois.
“The HistoryMakers is a brilliant way to preserve our generation’s history... What you’re doing is interrupting that terrible process of broken testimony, broken memory, and I admire it.”
Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr.