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:

Abby Abinanti

Chief judge of the Yurok Tribe, Abinanti dispenses restorative justice for her tribe, the most populous in California. She was interviewed by Mary Louise Frampton, director of the Aoki Center for Critical Race and Nation Studiesatthe University of California, Davis Law School. Three parts.

Diana Dooley

Dooley’s career with Jerry Brown spanned his four terms as governor, starting as an aide dealing with state worker pay and ending as chief of staff. A two part interview conducted by Pauline Bartolone.

Thelton Henderson

A federal judge in San Francisco for 37 years, Henderson was interviewed by Lowell Bergman, a renowned investigative reporter who has known the judge for many years. Three parts.

Clay Jackson

Jackson was 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. Interviewed by Sigrid Bathen, a journalist and lecturer at California State University, Sacramento. Two parts.

Brian K. Landsberg

An examination of the life and work of Landsberg, an emeritus professor at Pacific 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. Interviewed by Mary Louise Frampton of the University of California Las School. Two parts.

Stuart K. Spencer

As a young political consultant, Spencer helped launch the political career of Ronald Reagan, first as governor, later as president. Interviewed by Reagan biographer Lou Cannon. Two parts.

George Steffes

Steffes served as Ronald Reagan’s legislative secretary when Reagan was governor of California and later built a successful lobbying firm. Interviewed by Lou Cannon, author of authoritative biographies of Reagan as governor and president. Three parts.

Richard Ratcliff

A lobbyist in Sacramento for four decades, Ratcliff established a reputation as one of the Capitol’s most thoughtful and effective lobbyists. Interviewed by Steve Wiegand, a longtime reporter in California’s Capitol. One part.

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 grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the California State Library.

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