Join the Vivian G. Harsh Society and help preserve the legacy of African-American history for future generations. Visit our Membership page for details.
Listen now to the 2013 CPL program featuring Timuel Black, Linda Johnson Rice and Adam Green in an engaging conversation of how the Great Migration shaped their lives and the city of Chicago.
At our upcoming Platinum Anniversary Celebration, VGHS will be hosting Julieanna Richardson. Ms. Richardson is an amazing leader in the research of oral history. She is both the founder and executive director of The HistoryMakers, an educational nonprofit dedicated to collecting and archiving the oral history traditions of the African American community. The HistoryMakers has over 2000 oral history interviews in its collection, a few gathered from the Harsh Collection, which document the lives of around 5000 important figures in African American history. What makes Julieanna Richardson’s work beyond remarkable is how unique it is. There are no other archives solely for oral traditions, let alone for African American oral tradition. She noticed, as she says in a video on The HistoryMakers web site (thehistorymakers.com), how the same big names are repeated over and over, but there are many other important figures who have been forgotten by mainstream American history lessons.
While Ms. Richardson now bases her life and work in Chicago, she is originally from Pennsylvania. Her road into oral history began at Interlochen Arts Academy, where she went to high school. Ms. Richardson continued her education at Brandeis, graduating with a BA in Theater Arts and American Studies. She finally became exposed to oral history when working on her senior honors thesis. She wanted to see how Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance affected the conceptualization of black identity, especially as it intersected with American identity on a larger scale. It took many years before Ms. Richardson returned to her thesis work on black identities and the inspiration of oral history. She received her JD from Harvard Law School, worked as a lawyer, and even spent a long time in the television production world.
“What is the African American legacy?” This is the question posed by The HistoryMakers’ About Us video. Oral history collections, at VGHS and The HistoryMakers, allow for a more multi-dimensional look at the answer to this question. The HistoryMakers has a mission to “correct American history before it is too late.” It is now becoming easier and easier to go beyond the paper (educational opportunities being a luxury many take for granted) and into the performative (aural and visual) aspects of the past. The gaps in the relatively undocumented past of an entire culture can now be filled in thanks to archival material. This is important when working for a community that was often denied “a sense of place, a sense of belonging” which Ms. Richardson cites as a huge motivating factor for her work.
Interested in learning more? Check out the Upcoming Events to purchase tickets for the Platinum Anniversary Celebration.
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