ABC7 Unite: Inside 'The Historymakers,' the nation's largest African American video oral history archive

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021
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Sandra Bookman reports on the archive helping future generations learn about the many accomplishments of African-Americans.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- All this month, Eyewitness News is examining the importance of teaching "Black History as American History" to all children.

The creator of a Black history archive is helping future generations learn about the many accomplishments of African Americans, past and present.

"We just lost Hank Aaron, we just lost Cicely Tyson," said Julieanna Richardson, "The Historymakers" Founder and President. "They're leaving here in rapid succession."

Richardson has made it her life's mission to make sure the accomplishments of people like Aaron and Tyson are not forgotten.

"The Historymakers" is the nation's largest African American video oral history archive.

"I want to give the Black community their place in history. And I want to make sure we leave a documentary record," she said.

"The Historymakers" is essentially a digital repository for the Black experience. Its nearly 3,400 interviews include leaders in 15 different categories, from the arts, to business, to politics, medicine, and religion.

Many of them are well-known.

Even a young Barack Obama, then a senator from Illinois, thinking about his future.

"My career is still largely ahead of me as opposed to behind me," Former President Obama said in the archive.

Others were not famous at all but succeeded despite the odds.

Their stories formed the backbone, not just of Black history, but also of America's history, like chemist Sondra Akins.

"That was the way to disprove the myth of Black inferiority," Akins said.

As the list of "Historymakers" continues to grow, the hope is that the unique, first-person testimony will give future generations a more complete look at the lives and legacy of African Americans.

"We wanted to be able to show all the areas we have impacted not only U.S. society but the world," Richardson said.

"The Historymakers" one-of-a-kind collection is housed permanently at the Library of Congress.

RELATED: ABC7 Unite: Museum founded by 2 women displays historical Black contributions in NJ

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Ways to Help

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Books

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children In A Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

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American Son: Available on Netflix

If Beale Street Could Talk: Available on Hulu

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Documentaries

13th: Available on Netflix

America Inside Out with Katie Couric: Available on National Geographic

Becoming: Available on Netflix

I am Not Your Negro: Available on YouTube