Oral histories: Main

This website features about 140 oral histories of early leaders of federally funded civil legal aid and public defense (indigent criminal defense). Many leaders were active primarily during the 1960s through the 1990s. They include access to justice leaders, bar leaders, judges, and others.

For each oral history, you can read the full transcript. Some have links to video available on the website of the Georgetown University Law Library.

In each oral history, a person shares their unique journey — how they found and pursued a life’s work dedicated to justice. Together, these oral histories tell the story of a modern movement that built on a rich history, reshaped American society, and improved the lives of millions of Americans.

Lists of oral histories

Oral histories — by Topics & State

Oral histories — by Interviewers and Collections

Oral histories — at Georgetown Law Library’s National Equal Justice Library (NEJL)

Oral history collections

NEJL — Produced by NEJL and were donated to Georgetown Law Library, which co-owns the copyrights to these videos and which has committed to the preservation of the files. The descriptions and first transcripts were also produced by Georgetown staff as well as the Court Reporter’s Foundation, then uploaded to Georgetown Law Library National Equal Justice Library.

CNEJL — Produced by the Consortium for the NEJL.

ABA Women Trailblazers — Initiated by Brooksley Born and Linda Ferren, the ABA Women Trailblazers Project (WTP) has more than 100 oral histories of senior women who have made important contributions to the law and have opened opportunities for other women in the profession. The WTP collection is housed at two repositories: the Library of Congress and the Schlesinger Library at Harvard.

NEJL/CNEJL collections

Oral history interviews

Of the approximately 140 interviews, about 73 were conducted by Alan Houseman, 17 by Victor Geminiani and the rest by two dozen other interviewers. Most interviews were conducted in spare rooms during national conferences when participants were handy.

Participants signed releases authorizing use of the interviews by the Consortium and by the NEJL, now special collection housed at Georgetown University Law Center’s Law Library.

Transcription process

Two different approaches to transcription were used:

Oral history videos mostly recorded in 2014 or before (approximately 75) — These were transcribed by the National Court Reporters Foundation (see acknowledgement below).

Oral history videos mostly recorded in 2015 or after (approximately 50) — A commercial service produced raw transcripts which were then cleaned up by a Consortium consultant. Finally, the cleaned transcript was reviewed by Alan Houseman. When practical, some interviewees then reviewed the almost-final transcript and offered a few additional corrections.


The Consortium gratefully acknowledges the National Court Reporters Foundation in transcribing approximately 73 oral history videos. The National Court Reporters Foundation supports the court reporting and captioning professions through philanthropic activities funded through charitable contributions. The Foundation is the charitable affiliate of the National Court Reporters Association. First convened in Chicago in 1899, the National Court Reporters Association promotes excellence among those who capture and convert the spoken word to text.