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Library of Congress Acquires 'HistoryMakers' Video Collection

Dorothy Rowley | 6/25/2014, 4:15 p.m.
Louisiana Hines, who passed away in 2013 at 114 years old, is among several people interviewed for the Library of Congress's "HistoryMakers" program. (Courtesy photo)

The Library of Congress has acquired a video archive of thousands of hours of interviews from the "HistoryMakers" program, which captures and documents African-American history and culture.

The archive provides invaluable first-person accounts of both well-known and unsung African-Americans, detailing their hopes, dreams and accomplishments-often in the face of adversity, said James Billington, librarian of Congress.

"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 its people," Billington said.

Julieanna Richardson, HistoryMakers founder and executive director, added that the archive is the the largest of its kind since the Works Progress Administration's initiative to document the experiences of former slaves in the 1930s.

"This relationship with the Library of Congress represents a momentous occasion for our organization," Richardson said. "With the Library of Congress serving as our permanent repository, we are assured of its preservation and safekeeping for generations to come."

The collection, which includes 9,000 hours of content, comprises 2,600 videotaped interviews with African-Americans in 39 states, averaging 3 to 6 hours in length. The videos are grouped by 15 different subject areas ranging from science and politics to sports and entertainment.

"The collection is one of the most well-documented and organized audiovisual collections that the Library of Congress has ever acquired," said Mike Mashon, head of the Library's Moving Image section. "It is also one of the first born-digital collections accepted into our nation's repository."

The oldest person interviewed was Louisiana Hines, who passed away in 2013 at 114. She was one of the iconic "Rosie the Riveter" workers during War World II. One of the youngest is a prima ballerina, Ayisha McMillan, who was 29 at the time of her interview.

Also interviewed was Arthur Burton Sr., one of the last surviving pullman porters who worked 20 days a month, averaging two hours of sleep a night at half the pay of factory workers; and Ann Cooper, who was told by then-President-elect Barack Obama that her life exemplified the struggle and hope of the American-American experience.