Library of Congress Acquires Oral Histories of Black Americans

Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building by USCapitol

The Library of Congress announced Tuesday it has acquired 9,000 hours of video interviews with 2,600 black Americans who define the black experience in America.

A project called The History Makers has been collecting the interviews for years, quizzing people from the oldest living black cowboy to late poet Maya Angelou, from President Obama when he was an Illinois state senator to a survivor of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, and from activist/educator Angela Davis to late actress/activist Ruby Dee. The History Makers is donating the collection to the Library of Congress.

The collection now will join the ranks of a series of interviews done of former slaves as a WPA project that included late author Zora Neale Hurston.

“This culturally important collection is a rich and diverse resource for scholars, teachers, students and documentarians seeking a more complete record of our nation’s history and our people,” James Billington, the librarian of Congress, said in a statement Tuesday.

The collection includes 14,000 analog tapes, 3,000 DVDs, 70,000 paper documents and 30,000 digital images, according to the Library of Congress.

Lawyer and television producer Julieanna Richardson launched the non-profit History Makers in 1999 to preserve the oral histories of black Americans. She told CBS she wanted the history preserved and understood.

“I want the African-American child to understand their roots but I also want mainstream America to understand the contributions of black people in this country,” she said.

Click here to read more.

Melanie Eversley

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