02-19-2017  1:17 pm      •     

Some of Seattle's most notable African Americans are being interviewed this week to be included in a national archival collection of African American video oral histories.
The HistoryMakers is the nation's largest African American video oral history archive dedicated to recording and preserving the personal histories of well-known and unsung African Americans. Based in Chicago, the nonprofit institution is committed to preserving, developing and providing easy access to thousands of African American video oral histories.
"We haven't been to the Northwest and there are African Americans who have accomplished a great deal there," said Julieanna L. Richardson, founder and executive director of The HistoryMakers.
A video crew from The HistoryMakers are in town interviewing local residents such as Seattle's first and only African American mayor, Norm Rice; Metropolitan King County Council Chair Larry Gossett, retired Washington State Judge Charles Smith, former Seattle Poet Laureate Mona Lake Jones, activist Aaron Dixon, University of Washington professor William Bradford, Professor Emeritus at Western Washington University Violet Malone, resident Gary Gayton, renowned educator Maxine Mimms and president of Jazz Inc., Gloria Burgess.
Richardson said they select individuals by doing research, talking to local newspapers, the local Urban League and the NAACP, and other organizations and historians. People can also submit someone to be nominated though their Web site.
"People often ask us, 'how do we choose the individuals' and I counter with, 'how do we sort?'" Richardson said. "There are so many African Americans with incredible stories of rich history to share."
Each interview is three to four hours long and is videotaped, sent out for transcription, archived and encoded and is then digitized for The HistoryMakers Web site. Richardson said the interviews will be available online in the future through a visual archive they are currently testing out as well as creating a database researchers can use. She has raised about $9 million for the project but needs to raise another $10 million to complete the project. 
"We want to answer the question of what is the legacy of African Americans in this country and we believe that preserving these stories will help answer that question," Richardson said. "There is a tremendous, tremendous need for a project like this."
Richardson said the holdings at Library of Congress and the Smithsonian holdings are generally in one subject only and only a few Black newspapers have archives which are indexed.
The oral history videos will educate and show the depth of American history as told from a first person perspective highlighting accomplishments of African American-led movements and/or organizations.
"We're doing this for future and current generations," Richardson said. "We don't want to see the continued marginalization of Black people by themselves and also by the larger community. When you get around Black History Month there are around 20 names mentioned, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, but we want to show that our numbers actually exist in the thousands."
The HistoryMakers has done interviews in over 80 U.S. cities and towns. Last year they went to Norway to interview 94-year old Ann Brown who was the first "Bess" in Porgy and Bess on Broadway.
Richardson says not since the recording of 2,000 former slaves during the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s has there been such a massive, wide-scale attempt to record personal testimonies of African Americans.
"We see ourselves as the modern day Slave Narrative Project but using state-of-the-art technology and combining traditional oral history," Richardson said.
"When we have done interviews in places that are not viewed as typically African American urban centers, then you find a very interesting assortment of people and history that is not mainstream but very, very vibrant but not known much at all. We are essentially trying to change the paradigm of what is viewed as African American achievement in this country."
Since The HistoryMakers started recording oral history in 1999, they have interviewed nearly 1,700 people including artists, civic leaders, entertainers, athletes and noncelebrities. The goal is to create an archive of 5,000 interviews -- 30,000 hours worth -- of professional recorded video within the next five years.
Richardson plans to create a digital archive of the interviews for historically Black colleges and universities as well as national research centers including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem and the Library of Congress. 
Some of the interviews are sponsored by the Sponsor A HistoryMaker program Campaign 400 which has raised over $450,000 this year and is steadily working towards meeting the goal of raising $1 million to fund 400 additional interviews this year.
The HistoryMakers archive is accessible via their Web site at www.historymakers.com.

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All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. 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