On Sunday, Feb. 19th, 60 Minutes aired a segment on The HistoryMakers, a Chicago-based nonprofit that has the largest African American oral history archive in the world. The collection is stored in the Library of Congress alongside Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936 to 1938, which contains the largest collection of first-person narratives of the formerly enslaved.
The HistoryMakers mission is to record, preserve, and share the stories of African American leaders and innovators, from famous figures like Maya Angelou and President Barack Obama, interviewed in 2001 when he was an Illinois State Senator, to lesser-known but equally important individuals like teachers, doctors, athletes, artists, and community activists.
“How else are you going to know what really has happened in the Black community if you don’t allow the community to speak for itself?” asked Julieanna Richardson, executive director and founder of The HistoryMakers.
“[These stories] are America's missing history and American history won't be complete without them.”
Growing up, the only history Ms. Richardson knew about her family was that her great-grandfather was a slave and, as the ony Black child in her classroom in Ohio, she was taught nothing about Black history.
“But I was not the only one,” she said.
She founded The HistoryMakers in 1999 to preserve Black history before it was lost, and since then, the organization has conducted over 3,300 video interviews.
Over 180 colleges and universities have subscribed to their digital archive to make these stories available for research and educational purposes.
“With the younger generation, when they see someone who looks like them, and say ‘hey, that guy, he made it,” said Jerry Rice, considered one of the best NFL players of all time, who was over the moon when when he was asked to be interviewed by The HistoryMakers. Mr. Rice, who grew up poor, believes that his history can inspire the next generation of youth coming from similar circumstances.
“That might be the little kick to make them work a little bit harder.”
Givepact co-founder Alicia Maule’s introduction to the nonprofit world was interning for The HistoryMakers in high school and college.
“I learned how to contextually research and prepare the team thoroughly for each interview — a skill I continue to use every day,” said Ms. Maule.
“I had the privilege of transcribing dozens of interviews and was able to connect each story to the larger narrative of the Great Migration — this was an incredible and formative education for me. The first question each subject is asked is how far they can trace their family history. What Julieanna created has enriched my life and changed the course of American history. I am so excited that The HistoryMakers will be one of the 1.5 million organizations on Givepact’s platform that people can donate to.”
Each interview costs The HistoryMakers $6,000. Add your name to be the first to donate crypto to the The HistoryMakers organization this spring.