Barbara Charlene Jordan was one of my favorite Texan women, because she was a pioneer for civil rights. She was a lawyer as well as a politician, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree. Barbara Jordan lived from 1936 to 1996, passing away just a short time before her 60th birthday.
Jordan is famous as the first woman and ALSO the first Black person to present a Keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. She gained additional notoriety for her incredible opening statement at former president Richard Nixon’s impeachment hearing.
Jordan was the first Black woman from the South to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the also the first Black person in the Texas Senate.
Jordan’s parents were active in the Baptist church; her father was a minister. She was the youngest of three children. Her family lived in Houston in a poor, segregated neighborhood.
Jordan attended Texas Southern University, because segregation dictated that she could not attend her first choice college, The University of Texas at Austin. In 1956 she graduated Magna Cum Laude, after winning national debate championships, and joining the sorority Delta Sigma Theta. She went on to attend law school at Boston University, and graduated in 1959.
Over 300 resolutions and bills were sponsored in full or in part by Barbara Jordan during her time as a member of U.S. Congress. Many of the laws that she helped create are still on the books today! Here are just a small handful of examples:
In the 1970’s, Jordan supported legislature that forced financial institutions to serve and lend to impoverished areas and communities with high populations of minorities. This became known as the Community Reinvestment Act.
Jordan helped to renew the Voting Rights Act, which was originally passed in 1965. She pushed for this to be updated to include Spanish-speaking Texans and other non-English speakers. Although it was met with controversy, Jordan did not give up under the pressure, and the act was eventually updated to be even more inclusive.
Did you know that manufacturers were once federally authorized to fix prices? Jordan also wrote a bill to help end this practice.
Barbara Jordan is one of my heroes because she did not let anyone tell her what she could not do as a minority woman. She spoke up and stood up for what she believed in, in a tangible way that continues to influence the laws in the U.S. to this day.
You can read more about this incredible woman by clicking this article. I encourage you to learn more about these famous women and to help share their stories. It’s important that we lift each other up and celebrate the people who have paved the way to be where we are today!