Black Women’s History Will Be Recorded and Preserved Thanks to a $1 Million Grant

Supermajority Education Fund

February 28, 2020

Thanks to a $1 million grant from former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, the stories of 180 Black women history makers will be recorded in their own words and preserved for generations to come. The project will be created by WomanMakers, a new initiative of the HistoryMakers, an oral history archive that has been documenting the stories of prominent African Americans like baseball star Henry Aaron, poet Maya Angelou and Congressman John Lewis — since 2000. The project’s advisory committee includes notable African American leaders, like Anna Deavere Smith, Bethann Hardison, and Anita Hill.

HistoryMakers founder Julieanna Richardson told the Washington Post that the new initiative will play a critical role in ensuring that the contributions of Black women have their rightful place in the historical record. “When you look at different periods of time, even the modern-day civil rights movement, often the story of women’s roles is not well-recorded or told,” Richardson said.

The WomenMaker initiative is part of several projects that have been launched in recent years that are dedicated to African American history. In 2016, the Smithsonian opened the National Museum of African American History and Culture to great fanfare. A year later, several philanthropic foundations and the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced the creation of the  African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund to preserve historic sites across the country. 

Experts say the push to preserve these histories is long overdue. “The issue is that Black people learn about white history and Black history, while white people only feel the need to learn white history,” Fordham University professor Christina Greer told Supermajority News. “Even though Black history is their history as well.”

An example of the lack of attention most museums, schools, and other educational institutions pay to Black history can be seen in the fact that most Americans did not know about the work of mathematician and NASA legend Katherine Johnson — whose calculations were instrumental in helping put a man on the moon — until she was in her 90s. 

“White people should be angry that they went through most of their education without hearing about people beyond names like Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Sojourner, and Harriet Tubman,” said Greer. “They should be upset and frankly outraged that they have been denied a portion of their own American history.”