Oral history interviews
Digitized oral histories are a recent addition to the On The Line web-book, thanks to many individuals who generously agreed to share their personal stories on schooling, housing, and civil rights with Trinity student interviewers. Our collection is hosted by the Trinity College Digital Repository. Participants voluntarily signed consent forms that allow their oral histories to be made available for public, non-commercial use (see each item for details), and also received a free copy for their personal use. Each interview includes an abstract and transcript; some also include photos, audio, or video recordings. Click any link or image to open the interview page in a new tab/window.
Video interviews with plaintiffs from the 1989 Sheff v O’Neill school desegregation lawsuit
Elizabeth Horton Sheff (born 1952) describes her experience as a parent plaintiff (on behalf of her son, Milo) in the Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation lawsuit, originally filed in 1989. She recalls the early stage of her activism as a member of the Westbrook Village Tenants' Association, working with the attorneys (such as John Brittain, Phil Tegeler), meeting other plaintiffs (such as the Bermudez, Leach, Connolly families), and connections with other activists. She discusses the legal process of the case as well as its long-term successes and limitations. Sheff also describes growing up in the Charter Oak housing project on Flatbush Avenue in Hartford, and the influence of the United Church of Christ on her life.
Wildaliz and Eva Bermudez (born 1982 and 1987, respectively) recall their earliest memories of activism for school integration in Greater Hartford through their involvement as young plaintiffs (with their brother, Pedro) in the 1989 Sheff v O’Neill lawsuit, and how the case shaped their lives as politically active adults today. The sisters describe why their parents (Pedro and Carmen Wilda Bermudez) supported the integration movement, and reflect on their personal experiences as Puerto Rican youth growing up in Hartford's South End neighborhoods, attending Hartford Public Schools and bilingual education programs, and eventually (for Eva) an interdistrict magnet school.
Karen and Leo Harrington (both born in 1949) recall their activism for school integration in Greater Hartford through their involvement in the 1989 Sheff v O’Neill lawsuit. Previously, in the early 1970s, they became active in housing discrimination testing with Boyd Hinds and the Education/Instruccion organization. They also describe their experiences as West End residents and parents of children in the Hartford Public Schools, followed by their decision to move to suburban West Hartford in the mid-1990s, and the sharp differences in educational quality and student expectations between the two districts.
Eugene Leach (born 1944) recalls his activism to promote school integration in Greater Hartford with his involvement in the 1989 Sheff v O’Neill lawsuit, along with the lead plaintiffs Elizabeth Horton Sheff and Milo Sheff. He discusses his personal experience as a white suburban plaintiff parent during the case, his role as a Connecticut Civil Liberties Union board member, and public skepticism and political opposition he encountered. He reflects on the broader lessons of civil rights activism, which were influenced by his perspective as a professor of American Studies and history at Trinity College.
Click any link or image to open the interview page in a new tab/window.