African American Oral History Collection, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 4.16.58 PMThe HistoryMakers Digital Archive

Find it: Go to or visit our databases page and search for HistoryMakers

Description/focus: The HistoryMakers Digital Archive is the largest video archive of African American oral histories in the United States. Founded in 1999, it contains interviews snippets of hundreds of African Americans from fifteen professional arenas: Art, Business, Civics, Education, Law, the Media, Medicine, the Military, Music, Politics, Religion, Science, Sports, and Style. Each interview is spliced into short stories and indexed by subject to help students and scholars find information on specific topics.

Start with this hint: The HistoryMakers Digital Archive has unique search features that allow you to dig deep into the archive.

  • Each oral history includes a video and a written transcript. These transcripts allow you to follow along word-for-word, but also contain important information embedded within. For example, the database standardizes names of individuals and of places that interviewees mention. This allows users to find all references to a particular subject, even if the interviewee doesn’t mention a person or institution by its proper name.
  • Interviews, which average 3 1/2 hours a piece, are broken down into short stories each of which are assigned subjects.
  • These stories are indexed into categories called facets, which users can click on to narrow their search. They can also cross-reference these categories. For example, if students want to find African American politicians’ experience with integration, or if they would like to find stories of female doctors and discrimination within the medical profession, they can do so.

Where can I get additional help using the database? The HistoryMakers has number of useful tutorials that will help you navigate the database.

How this will help researchers: It is often difficult to find the information that you need within oral histories. TheHistoryMakers Digital Archive meets this challenge. By breaking down interviews into stories, indexing these stories by subject, and defining terms within each narrative, it greatly enhances their usability.

Who should I contact if I have a question?: If you would like more information about this database or a demonstration for a class, contact African American Studies and United States History Librarian, Erica Bruchko (berica [at] emory [dot] edu).

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