Learn about the U.S. Senate through the stories of those who helped to shape it. Since the 1970s, Senate historians have conducted oral history interviews with senators, officers, and staff. These interviews preserve the individual experiences of a diverse group of personalities who witnessed events firsthand and offer unique perspectives on national events, politics, and policy, as well as the evolution of the Senate. The interviews below represent a small sample of the larger collection.
On January 3, 1993, Carol Moseley Braun became the first woman from Illinois and the first African American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. As one of only seven women senators and the only African American in the Senate at the time, Moseley Braun experienced a level of constituent demands rarely seen before. “I had a job to do. I had to represent the people of Illinois. That means attending to their business. That means being a legislator. That means constituent service work … That's how I saw what I was supposed to do.”
Elizabeth Letchworth began her Senate career as a page in the 1970s and moved on to serve in the Republican cloakroom and as a floor assistant. In these positions, she often worked at the heart of the action in the Senate Chamber. In 1995 senators elected her Republican Party secretary, the first woman to serve in that position. “Because of the nature of the job, because it’s not a job where you can learn from reading books or going to classes, it is the epitome of on-the-job training.”
Carl Marcy served for 18 years as chief of staff for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the height of the Cold War. Marcy recalls that pivotal era as one in which the trust between Congress and the White House steadily eroded, most notably over the war in Vietnam. “It was during that summer [of 1965] that I think the administration began to worry a little bit about what [Foreign Relations Chairman Bill] Fulbright's attitude was. He was a bit too independent for them.”
These and other stories are found in the many interviews that make up the Senate Oral History Project. The Historical Office recently redesigned the online presentation of its oral histories. A wide-ranging selection of interviews can now be searched by name, position, or era, and by a select number of subjects and events. Each interview provides a unique perspective on Senate history, offering a deeper and more nuanced understanding of congressional action and life on Capitol Hill.