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The HistoryMakers celebrate 20th anniversary of largest African American digital archive

Julieanna Richardson is the Founder and President of The HistoryMakers. (299795)
Julieanna Richardson is the Founder and President of The HistoryMakers. Credit: The HistoryMakers

The HistoryMarkers, the nation’s largest African American digital archive is celebrating its 20th anniversary in December 2020. During the era of COVID-19, the archive has been keenly relevant as the focus and spotlight has shifted to online learning.

According to HistoryMarkers, 2020 will be looked back on as a year that has provided us with many lessons, including how public knowledge of the Black experience and the contributions of African Americans is extremely limited and harmful to American society as a whole. Black historians believe America sits at a critically important crossroads where racist ideology is on the rise and documentation and preservation of 20th African American life, history and culture is at risk of being lost forever if action is not taken now. Unfortunately, many key public figures are passing away without having their stories documented and  preserved for the benefit of succeeding generations.

“The challenges facing our country at this moment reinforce the need to preserve and elevate the truth about the  African American experience. We must work together to massively digitize the personal collections of our HistoryMakers and other African American leaders,” said Julieanna Richardson, Founder and President of The HistoryMakers. “Otherwise, the continued distortion of the truth of African  American contributions to our culture and democracy will continue. Our need is urgent, especially as the next  generation of storytellers, changemakers, and stewards of our legacy are now taking the lead.”

However, The HistoryMakers, said it finds itself in 2020, in a race against time. The organization is working to increase public understanding and awareness of this crisis. That’s why The HistoryMakers are hosting a virtual convening of some of the nation’s top African American thought leadership.

Hosted on YouTube and Facebook, The HistoryMakers 20@2020: 20 Days and 20 Nights (Tuesday, December 1st – Sunday, December 20th) continues to shine a light on the  urgency of this issue as well as provide a first time, behind the scenes view of The HistoryMakers organization, its digital archive and educational initiatives and its iconic An Evening With… PBS-TV programs.

Participants include business leaders Ken Chenault, Ken Frazier and Clarence Otis; entrepreneur Daymond John, actors Danny Glover, poets Sonia Sanchez and Nikki Giovanni; activist Angela Davis; music legends Dionne  Warwick and Denyce Graves; radio hosts Rickey Smiley and Karen Hunter; lawyers The Honorable Eric  Holder, Anita Hill, and Sherrilyn Ifill; civic leaders and educators Johnnetta B. Cole and Ruth Simmons; political  leaders Valerie Jarrett, U.S. Congressman James Clyburn and Maxine Waters and many others-all coming together to support this great cause.

“Our mainstream institutions have not approached  preservation work equitably to be inclusive of the African American experience creating a heritage gap that is  contributing to the divisions in America we are experiencing today. But even more important, there is also a funding  gap to support and uplift this work. And that needs to change,” added HistoryMaker Howard Dodson, Director-Emeritus of Howard University Libraries, who is also the former director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City.

Since its inception, The HistoryMakers, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit headquartered in Chicago, has grown to become the nation’s largest African American video oral history archive. With education as its mission, its one-of-a-kind collection is housed permanently at the Library of Congress and provides an unprecedented and irreplaceable physical and online record of African American lives, accomplishments, and contributions through unique first person testimony. Over the past twenty years, almost 3,400 video oral history interviews (11,000 hours) have been  recorded in 413 cities and towns, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Norway. These narratives include the stories of Alonzo  Pettie, the oldest living Black cowboy; statesman General Colin Powell; 211 of the nation’s top scientists; civic  leader Vernon Jordan; and political leaders such as President Barack Obama (when he was an Illinois State Senator) and more. is accessed by millions worldwide, is cited in Wikipedia and used as a “go to” reference tool. Its digital archive has been licensed by almost 80 colleges, universities, K-12 schools, and public libraries for use by faculty, students and patrons. The HistoryMakers archive 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. To learn more about 20@2020 and The HistoryMakers, visit