History project taps area history makers

Among those interviewed for The HistoryMakers, the largest oral history video project to record the African-American experience, were: Sandra Miller Jones, Lenny Springs, Mutter Evans, Sheila Robinson, Lafayette Jones, Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, Sekazi Mtingwa, Mary C.Curtis and Brig. Gen. Arnold N. Gordon-Bray. A reception in their honor was held at the Forsyth County Central Library on July 26.

History project taps area history makers
August 03
09:53 2018

The founder of an organization that is undertaking the largest African-American oral history project since the Works Progress Administration’s efforts to collect slave narratives in the 1930s came to Winston-Salem to ask for help in identifying residents of North Carolina for the project.

“In many ways, we are building a legacy, built not on fictionalized accounts, but true stories and memories of days gone by,” said Julieanna Richardson, the founder and president of The HistoryMakers. “Nothing is more powerful than being able to hear someone talk about their own life in their own words.”

Richardson spoke at a reception at the Forsyth County Public Library’s Central Library on Thursday, July 26. The reception was held to honor the latest group of North Carolina HistoryMakers.

The HistoryMakers is a national nonprofit in Chicago, Illinois, that is dedicated to recording and preserving the personal histories of well-known and unsung African Americans. The archive is preserved in the Library of Congress.

The hosts for the event were marketing experts Lafayette and Sandra Miller Jones; former radio station owner Mutter Evans; and library director and executive producer of the National Black Theatre Festival, Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin. All of the hosts have been interviewed for the HistoryMakers project.

Also honored for their participation in the HistoryMakers were: Wake Forest University

Professor Melissa Harris-Perry; journalist Mary C. Curtis; Brig. Gen. Arnold N. Gordon-Bray; nuclear physicist Sekazi Mtingwa; marketing executive and publisher Sheila Robinson; insurance executive James Speed; the Honorable Eva Clayton; television journalist Sandra Hughes; former Shaw and Morgan State universities president  King Cheek Jr.; molecular virologist Marian Johnson-Thompson; neurobiologist Erich Jarvis; journalist John X. Miller and bank executive Lenny Springs.

Richardson, a Harvard-trained lawyer, has been collecting oral histories of African-Americans since 1999. She and her team have interviewed 3,000 people across the country, but only 53 of the interviewees have been North Carolinians.

She was moved to start The HistoryMakers project, she said, because as a child growing up in Newark, N.J., she remembered the shame of being asked to talk about her family background in school. She made up some Native-American and French ancestors because she knew few noteworthy African-Americans except for George Washington Carver.

Richardson said that she’s looking for those who have made history through significant accomplishment on their own or by being part of a movement, organization or period that’s important to African-American history. Some of the interviewees in the archives are nationally known, but many are not.

The organization is interested in forming partnerships with area schools, colleges and universities, libraries and other cultural institutions that would becomemsubscribers and make the The HistoryMakers digital archives available to the public.

“It is important that these stories are not forgotten, are documented and shared,” Richardson said, “and we need the help of the communities around us. By working together, we have a chance to give back a history and a memory that many of us thought it possible to lose in a time that is factious and fraught with misinformation and discontent.”

To nominate a history maker, go to The office phone number is (312) 674-1900 and the fax number is (312) 674-1915. You can also find the organization on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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