Oral Histories

Open California Oral History Project

California institutions offer a treasure of personal stories that create the quilt of the state’s history. From blacklisted Hollywood writers and interned Japanese-Americans to women political activists and laborers in Southern California restaurants, oral histories of the prominent and the obscure tell the story of the state.

With a grant from the State Library, Open California has begun a project to promote the extensive oral history resources available to educators, historians, students and – most importantly – the public.

Open California also has begun producing video oral histories that that focus on individual stories in what we hope is a compelling format. We have also provided links to other existing resources for those who wish to learn more about the subjects of our profiles.

Our projects include: a video in three chapters about Thelton Henderson, a federal judge in San Francisco for 37 years. He was interviewed by Lowell Bergman, a renowned investigative reporter who has known the judge for many years.

A three-part video of George Steffes, who served as Ronald Reagan’s legislative secretary when Reagan was governor of California. He was interviewed by Lou Cannon, author of authoritative biographies of Reagan as governor and president.

A one-part oral history with Richard Ratcliff, who worked as a lobbyist for four decades. Ratcliff worked for many of those years as an independent advocate and established a reputation as one of the Capitol’s most thoughtful and effective lobbyists.

A two-part interview with Clay Jackson, once one of Sacramento’s most powerful lobbyists until he was convicted of federal political corruption charges and served more than five years in prison. He was interviewed by Sigrid Bathen, a journalist and lecturer at California State University, Sacramento

A two-part video examining the life and work of Brian K. Landsberg, an emeritus professor at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, who was a witness to some of the most pivotal events of the civil rights movement in Alabama in the 1960s.

We look forward to expanding this series of profiles, and making them available to a wide audience.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant 158554_1

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