Preservationist will speak on saving African American history

Julieanna Richardson

The urgent need to preserve 20th century African American history is the subject of the next African American Workshop and Speaker Series talk. Julieanna Richardson, founder and president of The HistoryMakers, will be a virtual guest at the UO on Nov. 9.  

Richardson’s free public lecture, “The History Makers: Preserving 20th Century African American Collections with 21st Century Solutions” will take place virtually at 5:30 p.m. An RSVP is requested. For further information, see the Division of Equity and Inclusion website.

Richardson is the founder and president of The HistoryMakers, which promotes the preservation, growth and awareness of African American collections. Its efforts have resulted in permanent repositories for activist Angela Davis at the Schlesinger Library, opera legend Jessye Norman at the Library of Congress, actress Daphne Maxwell Reid at Northwestern University, and others

As explained by Richardson, “Many of the nation’s libraries, museums and archives contain racially biased or insensitive material and lack African American collections. Mainstream America’s knowledge of African Americans is still very limited and rooted in stereotype.”

In a 2016 interview, Lonnie Bunch, the 14th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, warned that the 20th century African American historical record would be obliterated if corrective action was not taken within the next decade.

Over the past 21 years, 821 history makers, approximately 25 percent of The HistoryMakers’ existing collection, have passed away, including civil rights leaders Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rev. C.T. Vivian and Charles Evers; baseball icon Hank Aaron; Mary Wilson of The Supremes; jazz legend Ellis Marsalis Jr.; country music legend Charley Pride; and art curator/historian David Driskell.

 “These deaths represent significant burnings of ‘libraries’ of information,” Richardson said, noting that she and The HIstoryMakers are now trying to fill the void.

Richardson has a diverse background in theater, television production and cable television, which created a path to founding and leading the largest national effort to collect African American video oral histories since the Works Progress Administration’s slave narratives. She combined her various work experiences and her passion for American studies and history to conceptualize, found and build The HistoryMakers, which provides easy access to an internationally recognized archival collection of thousands of African American oral histories.

Richardson is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Brandeis University, where she graduated with a double major in theater arts and American studies and did extensive oral history interviews on the Harlem Renaissance and Langston Hughes. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from Howard University, Dominican University and Brandeis University.

In 2014, Black Enterprise magazine awarded Richardson its Legacy Award, its highest recognition of women’s achievement. She was also profiled in “American Masters: The Boomer List,” a PBS documentary and exhibition at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

By tova stabin, University Communications