THE DIGITAL REPOSITORY FOR THE BLACK EXPERIENCE

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Our People

Ms. Julieanna Richardson

Founder

Julieanna Richardson

Julieanna L. Richardson has a diverse background in theatre, television production, and the cable television industry that created a unique path to founding the largest effort to record the African American experience since the WPA Slave Narratives of the 1930s. Founded in 2000, The HistoryMakers is a national, 501(c)(3) non-profit educational institution headquartered in Chicago committed to preserving, developing and providing easy access to an internationally recognized, archival collection of thousands of African American video oral histories. 

A 1980 graduate of Harvard Law School, Richardson graduated from Brandeis University with a double-major in Theatre Arts and American Studies, where she did extensive oral history interviews on the Harlem Renaissance and Langston Hughes. She worked as a corporate lawyer at the Chicago law firm of Jenner & Block prior to serving in the early 1980s as the Cable Administrator for the City of Chicago Office of Cable Communications.

Richardson currently sits on the Honors Council of Lawyers for the Creative Arts; Simmons University Dean’s Advisory Council of the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities, and James Madison University’s Flowerings Advisory Council. She has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from Howard University (2012), Dominican University (2014) and Brandeis University (2016). She has also served as the commencement speaker for Dominican University as well as Brandeis University 65th commencement.  In 2014, Black Enterprise magazine awarded Richardson its 2014 Legacy Award, its highest recognition of women’s achievement. That same year, Richardson was profiled in American Masters: The Boomer List, a PBS documentary and exhibition at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. She is a 2021 recipient of the Chicago History Museum’s John Hope Franklin Making History Award, which celebrates prominent Chicagoans who have made the city a better place to live. Published in July 2022, her TedTalk “The Mission to Safeguard Black History in the U.S.” is viewable on YouTube.

Julieanna L. Richardson created a unique path to founding and heading up the largest national collection effort of African American video oral histories on record since the WPA Slave Narratives. With her diverse background in law, television production and the cable television industries, she combined her various work experiences and her passion for American Studies to conceptualize, found and build The HistoryMakers.

Richardson graduated from Brandeis University in 1976 with her B.A. degree in Theatre Arts and American Studies. It was during her studies at Brandeis that she first experienced the power of oral history, while conducting independent research on the Harlem Renaissance. While exploring the collections of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, Richardson interviewed historian John Henrik Clarke, tap-dancer Honi Coles, and actors Butterfly McQueen (Gone With The Wind) and Leigh Whipper (The Ox-Box Incident) as part of her project. Having access to these poignant life stories “made history really come alive for me,” says Richardson. “It is important that everyone have a sense of their own legacy.” From this early exposure, the seeds of The HistoryMakers project first took root.

Richardson received her J.D. degree in 1980 from Harvard Law School and began her career as a corporate lawyer at the law firm of Jenner & Block prior to serving in the early 1980s as the Cable Administrator for the City of Chicago’s Office of Cable Communications. She went on to found Shop Chicago, a regionally based home shopping channel. She then started her own production company, SCTN Teleproductions, which for eight years managed local cable channels, and served as the local production arm for C-SPAN.

The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Julieanna also sits on the Honors Council of Lawyers for the Creative Arts, and in 2011 was appointed to the Comcast NBC Universal African American Diversity Council. In 2012, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in the Humanities by Howard University; and in 2014, she served as the commencement speaker for Dominican University who also awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in the Humanities. In 2014, Black Enterprise Magazine awarded Richardson the 2014 Legacy Award, its highest recognition of women’s achievement. That same year, Richardson was profiled in American Masters: The Boomer List, a PBS documentary and exhibition at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., shot and directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. In 2016, Richardson delivered Brandeis University’s 65th Commencement address, and also received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. That same year, Richardson received the Pioneer Award at the 27th Annual Heroes and Legends Awards in Los Angeles, California. In 2017, she was one of 8 honored during the world premiere of HistoryMaker and artist Jonathan Green’s Requiem for Rice.

Richardson’s passion for preserving and sharing this rich history is still as strong, and will undoubtedly leave a unique and lasting legacy, for generations to come.

OUR TEAM

Our people are what make this venture possible.