February 21, 1936 – January 17, 1996
Barbara Jordan was born in Houston, Texas where she attended public schools and was recognized as a gifted orator and debater by high school. Inspired to study law after hearing a speech by Edith Sampson, a Black female attorney, Jordan enrolled at Texas Southern University for undergrad. After graduating magna cum laude she attended law school at Boston University and was eventually admitted to the Massachusetts and Texas State Bars.
Jordan began a law practice in Houston but really made progress in her political career when she worked on the 1960 John F. Kennedy presidential campaign and organized a successful voting program for Houston’s African–American districts. Following two unsuccessful bids for the Texas House of Representatives, Jordan was elected to the Texas Senate in 1966. This political victory made her the first Black person elected to the state’s Senate after Reconstruction. And she later became the first Southern Black woman ever elected to the House of Representatives.
During her time in Congress, Jordan worked on legislation that implemented a minimum wage, expanded civil rights amendments, and created fair employment practices. She became a national figure after giving the opening statement at the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing for Richard Nixon in 1974 and the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 1976. But, her political career was cut short following a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis that likely made Jordan decide against seeking re-election.
Despite her decision to leave Congress, Jordan did not fully retire but instead penned an autobiography and spent much of the rest of her life as a professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
- Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Barbara Jordan.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 17 Feb. 2019, www.britannica.com/biography/Barbara-Jordan.
- Cho, Nancy. “Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) • BlackPast.” BlackPast, 8 May 2019, www.blackpast.org/aaw/vignette_aahw/jordan-barbara-charline-1936-1996.
- Editors, History.com. “Barbara C. Jordan.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/topics/black-history/barbara-c-jordan.
- “JORDAN, Barbara Charline.” US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives, history.house.gov/People/Detail/16031.
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