What is the mission of The HistoryMakers? Why was The HistoryMakers established? You may have the same questions as others. Find the answers to frequently asked questions here.

FAQs

What is The HistoryMakers?
We are the largest African American oral video history archive in the world. Founded in 1999, The HistoryMakers is a national non-profit 501(c)(3) educational institution committed to preserving, developing and providing easy access to an internationally recognized archival collection of thousands of African American video oral histories. 
Back To Top           

Who is a HistoryMaker?
A HistoryMaker is an African American who has made a significant contribution in some area of American life or culture, or who has been associated with a particular movement or organization that is important in the African American community. They come from all walks of life and disciplines including: Art, Business, Civics, Education, Entertainment, Law, Media, Medicine, Military, Music, Politics, Religion, Science, Sports and Style.  
Back To Top  

What is oral history?
The first hand recounting of memories by living people about events or social conditions which they experienced in their earlier lives taped and preserved as historical evidence.
Back To Top  

How do we choose HistoryMakers?
We prioritize HistoryMakers based on their age and their accomplishments. Our other HistoryMakers have been the best source of information on who we should interview. We also get invaluable information from our members who nominate HistoryMakers. In some cases, we have put together advisory boards as a way to source who should be a Potential HistoryMaker. 
Back To Top  

Why was The HistoryMakers established?
African American men and women have made significant contributions in all areas of American life and culture. Unfortunately, many of these contributions have largely been untold and unrecorded. They are “America’s Missing Stories.” The HistoryMakers was born out of a sense of pride for these wonderfully rich stories and a determination that the complete history of America should be told and shared with the world.
Back To Top  

What is the mission of The HistoryMakers?
Our mission is to interview and preserve the oral history of 5,000 African American HistoryMakers, and to establish an online database that will educate and show the breadth and depth of the accomplishments of individual African Americans across a variety of disciplines.
Back To Top  

What is the goal of The HistoryMakers?
Our goal is to show the world that African American history is American history and that thousands, not hundreds, of Black HistoryMakers have made significant (integral) contributions to our country.
Back To Top  

Haven’t others already collected this history?
During the 1930’s the WPA Movement recorded the stories of former slaves. However, since that time there has not been any methodic, wide-scale attempt to capture the testimonies of the Black experience after slavery. Of the oral histories that do exist, access is extremely limited and consists largely of transcribed, audiocassette interviews that are ill-suited for easy transfer to today’s media formats. The HistoryMakers’ collection is unique because it combines traditional oral histories with state of the art technology.
Back To Top  

Why did you select 5,000 as the number of interviews for your collection?
We wanted a large goal that would broaden the reference of African American history wider than just a few significant individuals, or several important movements. We also wanted a number that would be double the number of slave narratives (2,300) recorded by the WPA movement. Thus we felt 5,000 would be a good representation.
Back To Top  

Does The HistoryMakers produce documentaries?
No, we are oral historians. However, our programs have been aired on PBS and the content has been used by others for educational purposes. It has also been available to be used in print, radio and television features, as well as for personal purposes.
Back To Top  
 
What is the relevance of this collection today?
History teaches us who we are, where we’ve come from and often, and by deduction, where we’re going. The histories we have recorded are the inspiring stories of people from our communities, who have won success against the odds, and achievement in spite of adversity. Some are unsung neighbors and friends; some are well-known heroes and role models. All help give us a complete understanding of who we are, where we’ve come from and where we’re going….our history and its lessons.
Back To Top  

Who is this collection intended for?
Everyone. This is our collective history as Americans; we are simply ensuring that African American contributions find their place in the melting pot of the American story.
Back To Top  

How does the collection process work?
Once a HistoryMaker has been identified, researched and contacted, our team of interviewers and videographers travel to record their story. After the interview is completed, our transcribers, editors, encoders and archivist digitize the content in order to make it available online.
Back To Top  

What is the cost to produce a HistoryMaker interview?
The costs to produce each state-of-the art oral history interview includes transportation, video recording, staff fees, editing, transcribing, encoding and digitizing, and averages between $8,000-$10,000 per interview.
Back To Top  

How many oral histories do you have?
We have more than 2,000 videotaped interviews. 310 have been digitized, comprising about 8,000 hours of videotaped interviews; 60 special event recordings; more than 2,000 online biographies, and over 30,000 photographic images.
Back To Top  

What content is currently available on your website?
Our website contains biographical outlines of each of our 2,000 HistoryMakers.  DigitalMakers Members also have access to all of our digitized interviews. Our content is searchable by keyword, geographic location, table of contents or concept. We also have information about our Signature Programs including Our An Evening With… PBS-TV specials, Public Programs, Education Institute, Speakers Bureau, and our Store.
Back To Top  

Who uses this content?
Our users are worldwide and varied.

  1. They represent 35 countries
  2. 85% have college degrees
  3. 57% are female
  4. 58% are African American; 31% Caucasian; 3% Asian; 2% American Indian; 2% Latino
  5. 22% are between 50-59 years old; 19% between 40-49; 15% between 30-39; 7% are between 25-29; 9% are between 20-24; 11% are between 15-19 and, 1% are under 14.

Back To Top  

How are the materials archived? 
From 2000-2008 our interviews were shot on Betacam SP video tapes. From each master tape we then created a duplicate tape which we store in a separate location. Today, our interviews are shot in High Definition. Using Samma Solo technology we are currently digitizing all 2,000 interviews and 14,000 tapes; these will then be stored on LTO-4 tapes and archived in a separate location.
Back To Top  

What is the Digital Video Library?
From the beginning our vision was to successfully combine state of the art technology with traditional oral history methodology in order to not only archive these stories but also increase the public’s access to them. Through a grant from the Museum of Library Science and a donation of research-based technology from Carnegie Mellon University’s Informedia Digital Video Library our dream has become a reality. Today our Digital Video Library is a separate, web-based archive, available to all of our [Biographer/Legend] members, and contains our digitized oral histories.
Back To Top  

How can I access your collection?
Everyone is welcome to visit our archives at: www.thehistorymakers.com where you will find over 2,000 HistoryMaker biographies and photographic images. Additionally, our DigitalMakers Members ($30/Month) are also able to access our Digital Video Library and download all of our streamable videos directly to their computer.
Back To Top  

Where is the archive stored?
The archives are stored at our headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.
Back To Top  

Can I visit the archives?
Our archives are available by appointment only at our Chicago, Illinois headquarters.
Back To Top  

How are you funded?
Our primary funding has come through our special events, especially our An Evening With… PBS-TV celebrity interview and fundraiser. We have also received major funding from the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Museum & Library Sciences. Additionally, we are supported through memberships, donations, grants and corporate sponsorships.
Back To Top  

Are you partnering with any other organizations?
The HistoryMakers has formed academic partnerships with the University of Chicago, The University of Illinois, Columbia College, Carnegie Melon University and Howard University. Additionally, we have partnerships with the National Underground Freedom Center, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago Art Institute, the DuSable Museum, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Broadcast Communications, Chicago Public Schools, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and the Links. Media partnerships include PBS, AT&T Broadband, the A&E Network, the Word Network and, WBBM-AM. Technology partnerships include Informedia and IBM.
Back To Top  

What is The HistoryMakers Education Institute?
The Education Institute is a year-long program developed in collaboration with DePaul Center for Urban Education that draws on The HistoryMakers one-of-a-kind African American video oral history archive to make history come alive by providing a tangible, motivational and more inclusive curriculum for students.
Back To Top  

What is the Back To School initiative?
In partnership with local schools across the country we are sending our HistoryMakers’ Back To School to tell their stories to today’s students. Through exposure to their successes and achievements we provide opportunities for young people to learn from, and be inspired by, strong African American role models. 
Back To Top  

How can I support The HistoryMakers?
Donate, Volunteer, Nominate, and Sponsor. Individual and corporate support is critical to our continued success. The easiest way to get involved is by becoming a member, we have 3 levels of membership, each provides access to some or all of our content.
Back To Top  

Where are your offices?
The HistoryMakers National Headquarters is located in Chicago’s South Loop. Our regional offices are located in Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, D.C.
Back To Top  

How do I find out more about The HistoryMakers?
Contact us via email at info@thehistorymakers.com.
Back To Top