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The woman behind an ongoing project to document the experience of 5,000 African Americans wants to make sure their stories are around for future generations.
Julieanna Richardson talked to future attorneys at Northwestern University’s law school Monday about the project she started 12 years ago that has turned into a labor of love. She set out to record the histories of thousands of famous and unsung African Americans.
“People who have had an eye on either our movements, certain historical figures who may no longer be with us, or events and times that are significant in the African-American community,” Richardson told ABC7.
Now her creation, known as the HistoryMakers, is the single largest archival collection of its kind in the world. The project is based in Chicago.
“There had been no attempt to massively record the African-American experience by the first voice, until we came along, past the slave narrative,” she said.
Over the years, Richardson and her staff have documented stories of leadership, achievement and perseverance as told by celebrities like Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte and everyday role models like law professors Joyce Hughes and Dorothy Roberts, both faculty at Northwestern Law School who blazed trails in their field.
“I didn’t know my own history growing up and really was concerned about the marginalization you see in our community and also the outside the community about us,” Richardson said.
Entertainers Diahnn Carroll and Dionne Warwick are part of more than 2,000 people who have already been interviewed.
Richardson’s goal is to record interviews with 5,000.
“When we’re in full swing, we do 40 interviews a month, so we’re doing this all the time,” she said.
Funding for the project comes from proceeds raised from an ongoing series called “Evening With.” Last year, Valerie Simpson was the headliner.
Richardson says she hopes to compile the stories as a source of inspiration for generations to come. She says part of the inspiration for starting the HistoryMakers was noticing that the same few names were mentioned in terms of notable African Americans and she knew that there were countless others.
The HistoryMakers range in age from 29 to 113 and come from all walks of life.