Julieanna L. Richardson followed a unique path in heading up the largest national collection effort of African American video oral histories on record. With a diverse background in theatre, television production, and the cable television industries, she combined her various work experiences and her passion for history to conceptualize, found and build The HistoryMakers. The HistoryMakers is a national, 501(c)(3) non-profit educational institution based in Chicago, committed to preserving, developing, and providing easy access to an internationally recognized archival collection of thousands of African American video oral histories. Richardson serves as the Founder and Executive Director of The HistoryMakers as well as a member of the The HistoryMakers National Board of Directors.
Richardson graduated from Brandeis University in 1976 with a B.A. in Theatre Arts and American Studies. It was during her studies at Brandeis that she first experienced the power of oral history while conducting independent research on the Harlem Renaissance. While exploring the collections of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, Richardson interviewed Butterfly McQueen ("Gone With The Wind") and Lee Whipper ("The Ox-Box Incident") as part of her project. Having access to these poignant life stories “made the history really come alive for me,” says Richardson. From this early exposure, the seeds for The HistoryMakers project first took root.
Richardson received her J.D. degree in 1980 from Harvard Law School. She worked as a corporate lawyer at Jenner & Block prior to serving in the early 1980s as the Cable Administrator for the City of Chicago’s Office of Cable Communications. There, she established the Chicago Cable Commission, the City’s regulatory body. She went on to found Shop Chicago, a regionally based home shopping channel.
For eight years, her production company, SCTN Teleproductions, managed three local cable channels for TCI, then the nation’s largest cable operator. SCTN Teleproductions served as the production arm for C-SPAN.
Richardson founded The HistoryMakers in 1999, and started doing interviews in February of 2000. She sits on the Honors Council of Lawyers for the Creative Arts, and in 2011, was appointed to the Comcast NBC Universal African American Diversity Council. In May 2012, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Howard University during their 144th Commencement Convocation.
The HistoryMakers staff has created a finding aid for footage created by Julieanna Richardson and SCTN. View/Download below: