An Introduction to TheHistoryMakers Project

In the past months, sententiaeantiquae and I, a graduate student in Ancient Greek and Roman Studies at Brandeis University, began a project which aims to research oral histories of African-Americans in order to better understand the cultural place of Classics in that community. TheHistoryMakers, a database of video interviews with prominent African-Americans archived at several universities, was founded by Brandeis University and Harvard Law School alumna Julieanna Richardson and contains thousands of hours of narrative from African-Americans in all fields. In it, we have found many references to the role of Classics and ancient works of literature in personal narratives of early life, education, and intellectual growth.

This is the first in a series of posts which will highlight our findings in the hope that they might broaden discussion about the role of Classics in the educational experience of all communities.

To start, I’d like to share a quote which captures the view of Armstrong Williams, a media commentator and the host of “The Right Side with Armstrong Williams,” on the benefit of Classics in education and daily life:

“At a very young age, we started reading the classics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Homer, [William] Shakespeare, I read all the classics, I read the Bible from cover to cover, I read em all.  I mean some of my greatest lessons, well, the greatest books I’ve ever read are the classics.  And so, you know I was inspired to do that, and you know it really helped me out on tests too.  It would help me in communicating with people when I would have a conversation and you find out that you’re well read, in other words, you’re preparing yourself for life.”

Armstrong Williams ©TheHistoryMakers


Armstrong Williams (The HistoryMakers A2003.170), interview by Larry Crowe, 07/29/2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 6, Armstrong Williams talks about reading material in his family home.

4 thoughts on “An Introduction to TheHistoryMakers Project

  1. I never realised that my father had passed on to me a great passion for reading, and that he had read all the Classical books. I am just preparing to start a degree (54yrs) and we now Skype and talk about these fabulous books and he is (84yrs) and I’m still discovering the knowledge this wonderful man has hidden.

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