Library of Congress to fete HistoryMakers’ founder

TheHistoryMakers’ Julieanna Richardson

Julieanna Richardson, founder/executive director of TheHistoryMakers, the largest national archives of African American oral history, will be feted at a sell-out 500 guest dinner Saturday night, hosted by and at the Library of Congress Saturday night. 

Last June, the Library of Congress acquired non-profit TheHistoryMakers’ massive collection of videotaped interviews of African Americans, documenting their history, culture, struggles and achievements.

The collection includes 14,000 analog tapes, 3,000 DVDs, 6,000 born-digital tapes, 70,000 paper documents and digital files and more than 30,000 digital photographs.

The gala tribute to visionary Richardson, a Harvard-trained lawyer and former TV executive who created the historical treasure is well-deserved.

Discovering that no collection of 20th century African American history existed, she started TheHistoryMakers 14 years ago in the South Loop building she owns.

The mission “was about finding history in places where people didn’t know history existed,” she says.

Since then, TheHistoryMakers has amassed 9,000 hours of interviews with 2,600 persons in more than 380 US cities and towns, Norway and Mexico.

Black radio executive Barry Mayo gave the first interview in 2000 and Barack Obama was interviewed when he was an Illinois state senator.  

“The collection is one of the most well-documented and organized audiovisual collections that the Library of Congress has ever acquired,” said Mike Mashon, head of the Library’s Moving Image Section.   

“It is also one of the first born-digital collections accepted into our nation’s repository.”

Richardson’s goal is to tape another 2,400 interviews for a  total of 5,000 interviews.

“With the Library of Congress serving as our permanent repository, we are assured of its preservation and safekeeping for generations to come,” Richardson said.

The collection will open to the public this fall.