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HistoryMakers

What is HistoryMakers?

The HistoryMakers, established in 1999, is a non-profit institution whose purpose is to record, preserve and disseminate the content of video oral history interviews highlighting the accomplishments of individual African Americans and African-American-led groups and movements. Its aim is to provide a unique scholarly and educational resource for exploring African American history and culture. It is unique among collections of African American heritage because of its large and varied scope, with interviewees from across the United States, from a variety of fields, and with memories stretching from the 1890s to the present. Rather than focus on one particular part of a person’s life or a single subject, such as a career or participation in the civil rights movement, the interviews are life oral histories covering the person’s entire span of memories as well as his or her own family’s oral history.

Interviews were first conducted in 1993, and continue to the present. The archive continues to grow, so that queries saved today may have new results tomorrow based on new interviews added into the archive. Some people in the collection may be interviewed again, so that content for a particular person may grow as well. All of the appropriate metadata for the interviews is shown when you drill down to a particular person or a particular story.

Background on The History Makers

The only methodic and wide-scale attempt to capture the testimonies of African Americans occurred in the 1930s with the recording of former slaves as an undertaking of the Works Projects Administration (WPA). From 1936 to 1938, teams of writers and researchers were sent throughout the South resulting in approximately 2,300 hand-recorded interviews and some audio taped interviews. The HistoryMakers is the next methodic and wide-scale collection effort since the WPA Slave Narratives Project. Our goal is to complete 5,000 interviews of both well-known and unsung African American HistoryMakers. While African Americans have made significant contributions to American life, society and culture, the world is still largely unaware of these contributions.

How is the information organized?

HistoryMakers is organized by HistoryMaker (or interview subject). On the individual HistoryMaker pages, the full interviews are gathered in sequential order. However, each interview is also broken up into individual stories in a few minutes long clips. You can search the database for full stories or for stories on particular topics. 

Each story is accompanied by a synchronized text transcript, making the story searchable. 

Information pulled from HIstoryMakers' website.