Black Leaders to Address Students in Classrooms Across the Country Sept. 23

9/18/2011, 10:56 p.m.

CHICAGO -- Five hundred African-American trailblazers will descend upon classrooms in 107 cities and 34 states across the United States (including Puerto Rico) on Fri., Sept. 23 as part of the second annual Back-to-School with the HistoryMakers program.The one-day program, which comes as students are getting settled in classrooms throughout the country, is designed to bring renewed attention to the needs of the nation's educational system and its students.This year's participants include: Massachusetts Gov. Patrick Deval; Senior Advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett; former U. N. Ambassador Andrew Young; entertainer and author Common; activist and talk show host the Rev. Al Sharpton; and political commentator and talk show host Roland Martin, as well as other notables -- all of whom will recount their own school experiences and the struggles they encountered on their paths to success.The theme is "COMMIT," and the goal of the program is to put black leaders in direct and sustained contact with young people in schools all across the nation, while encouraging youth to commit to excellence, learning their history and achieving beyond what they think is possible.

HistoryMakers, the nation's largest African-American video oral history archive, consists of 2,000 videotaped personal histories of both well-known and unsung African Americans. Subjects include President Obama, General Colin Powell, Marion Wright Edelman and the oldest living black cowboy, Alonzo Pettie, co-founder of Colorado's first black rodeo.The oldest person interviewed is Louisiana Hines of Detroit, who is 113, and the youngest is Ayisha McMillan, 33, a prima ballerina from North Carolina.At last year's launch, 200 HistoryMakers spoke at 107 schools in 25 states and 50 cities. Participants included former Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes, civil rights activist C. T. Vivian and broadcast journalist Carole Simpson. In D.C., Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined Sharpton and Roger Wilkins at the Dorothy I. Height Community Charter School, and in New York, CNN's Soledad O'Brien spoke with former New York City Mayor David Dinkins at the Harlem Children's Zone.Through the group's efforts, more than 25,000 students were reached and many HistoryMakers adopted the schools they addressed."Our HistoryMakers embody our commitment to education and are a wonderful example of true service -- service that can literally change the course of the lives of thousands of young people," said HistoryMakers founder and Executive Director Julieanna Richardson. "This is just the beginning as we are making our digital collection of more than 8,000 hours of video testimony available, free of charge, to all participating schools."Organizations that have joined forces with The HistoryMakers for the second annual Back-to-School event include the Faison Firehouse Respect Project; DC-CAP; Illinois Network of Charter Schools; National Education Association; Arnold Family Foundation; the Science, Engineering and Mathematics Link; and Fernbank Science Center.For more information, visit www.thehistorymakers.com or The HistoryMakers digital archive at http://www.idvl.org/thehistorymakers/.