Julieanna Richardson: Preserving African-American Memories

August 25 - On The Dot
It’s a great day to be a woman! Melinda Garvey here as your voice, with the mission to give women everywhere a place to be heard and tell their stories. We’d love to hear from you!

FIRST THOUGHT: The American Story: A Melting Pot

It’s easy to get in the mindset of thinking that everyone should be just like you. After all, you’re the smartest and funniest gal you know, right? But here’s the thing: How totally boring would it be if America were filled just with mini yous? I wouldn’t want to deal with me in a bad mood, that’s for sure.

Everyone has different experiences, and everyone’s history—even in America—is diverse. So, this week, embrace that diversity. Join a friend at her African-American family reunion, visit your local Jewish heritage museum or take in an artsy Chinese film—yes, even if it requires reading subtitles. One thing is certain: Embracing our country’s diverse melting pot makes us all better Americans.


As some of us know and many of us experienced, the Civil Rights Movement took immense effort and fortitude to not only endure, but to effect change. And the year 1968 was fraught with social unrest. But it was also the year that saw some drastic positive changes in America. For instance, 1968 was the year Shirley Chisholm was elected to the United States Congress, making her the first black woman to hold that position.

Her legacy is still significant. Shirley’s alma mater, Brooklyn College, named its women’s research center after her, and the school’s library houses an archive called the Shirley Chisholm Project on Brooklyn Women’s Activism. It’s no surprise her name still holds such power. In 1972, she was the first major-party black candidate to run for president and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Thanks, Shirley, for paving the road for a long line of African-Americans and women.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Julieanna Richardson, Founder of The HistoryMakers

Speaking of groundbreaking women, today’s Woman to Watch is one of them. Julieanna Richardson has dedicated her life to preserving American history. She received her bachelor’s degree in American studies and theater arts before pursuing her law degree from Harvard and delving into the world of cable television in Chicago.

But beyond her diverse background in theater, television production and the cable-television industry, Julieanna has a passion for the Harlem Renaissance, which she spent much time researching while earning her theater degree. After interviewing some early African-American actors as part of her research, she discovered great storytelling can make history come alive. So, with her goal of preserving, developing and providing easy access to a collection of thousands of African-American oral-history videos, almost two decades ago, Julieanna founded The HistoryMakers, a nonprofit educational institution, and has been changing history ever since.

Today, The HistoryMakers is the nation’s largest video archive of African-American oral history. Representatives from The HistoryMakers travel the country, recording African-Americans’ rich stories of history and heritage, and conducting tons of research. The organization now has 8,000 hours of African-American testimony recorded—and counting. Visitors to The HistoryMakers’ online database can search the collection by makers from 15 different categories, like music, law, sports and business. Influential people, including President Barack Obama, award-winning poet Nikki Giovanni and child advocate Marian Wright Edelman, have contributed to the collection, among many others.

For Julieanna, the participants and the students who learn from this archive, it’s important to not only document the stories of African-Americans, but to also start a dialogue about some of the lesser-known people who greatly influenced American society.

As opposed to history books that commonly feature the same people and the same old information, Julieanna has opened up a whole new world, preserving thousands of life stories that are the backbone of American history.


One of the most well-known African-American stories is that of Rosa Parks, often called “the mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” She said:

“Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.”

That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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