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African American HistoryMakers Go Back to School in Atlanta Day of Service

John Wesley Dobbs, the grandfather of foundation executive and humanities professorJuliet Dobbs Blackburn-Beamon, was an early leader in Atlanta’s African American community. Of her grandfather’s unprecedented ascent as a railroad mail clerk, Blackburn-Beamon said, “He was moved up to supervisor which was very unusual for a black man at that time. When my grandfather was working to earn the promotion, he set up a mailbox with cubicles at home to practice sorting the mail. How fast he could do it had a lot to do with whether he’d move up into the next category.” Dobbs’ strong work ethic and resilience helped in the creation of the creation of the Postal Clerks Alliance, and also played a significant role in the development of the Sweet Auburn business district in the early 20th Century.

This the kind of story that students across the country will hear on Friday, September 25, 2015, when Blackburn-Beamon will join thirty-three other Atlanta-based African American HistoryMakers and hundreds of HistoryMakers nationwide for the 6th Annual Back to School With The HistoryMakers program.The theme of the day is “COMMIT.” HistoryMakers will return to classrooms to give their testimony of pursuing an education, overcoming challenges on their path to success, and making a difference in their communities. Most importantly, they will encourage students to COMMIT to finishing their education.

Blackburn-Beamon’s participation in the program is particularly special because she will be inspiring students at a school named after her grandfather, John Wesley Dobbs Elementary School. Also participating in the program are journalist and author Nathan McCall, newspaper editor and syndicated columnist George Curry, Georgia State Representative Tyrone Brooks, and chief executive Cornell McBride, Sr.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is chairing the nationwide effort with the goal of having more than 400 black leaders go “back to school” in 67 cities and 32 states. The program puts HistoryMakers in direct contact with over 25,000 students in 200 schools across the nation, to inspire them with their life’s stories and to encourage youth to strive for excellence.

Of his participation in the program last year, award-winning journalist Vernon Smith says, “I was reminded of how precious and eager young children are to learn, how they blossom from just the smallest encouragement, and how important good teachers and mentors are to helping them succeed.” The HistoryMakers National Advisory Board Member Sonjia Young says, “By bringing these living leaders into today’s educational system, we are raising awareness about the achievements of the accomplished African Americans in local communities and providing important role models for today’s youth.”

The HistoryMakers Founder and Executive Director, Julieanna Richardson is encouraging educators everywhere to use The HistoryMakers’ Digital Archive ( to enrich their students’ exposure to the contributions of African Americans across the globe. This year, schools participating in the event will receive a free one-year membership for the digital archive, which includes easy-to-access interviews with over 1,000 HistoryMakers.

The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African American video oral history archive, is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit dedicated to recording and preserving the personal histories of well-known and unsung African Americans. Recently, The HistoryMakers designated the Library of Congress to serve as the permanent repository for its collection of interviews.  To date, the organization has interviewed over 2,700 HistoryMakers with the goal of creating an archive of 5,000 interviews for the establishment of a one-of-a-kind Digital Archive. AT



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