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Barbara Jordan
Black History Month profiles
2011-02-23

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U.S. Congresswoman - Educator - Constitutionalist, 1936 — 1996

Barbara Jordan grew up in the black ghetto of Houston, Texas. She attended segregated public schools, and an all-black college, where she graduated magna cum laude. She was first elected to the Texas legislature in 1966 and, from 1973 to 1979, served in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first black woman from a Southern state to do so. A gifted speaker, in 1974, she made an influential, televised speech before the House Judiciary Committee supporting the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. She also became the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention — a speech that was ranked 5th in "Top 100 American Speeches of the 20th Century" list and was considered by many historians to have been the best convention keynote speech in modern history. Suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Jordan retired from politics in 1979 and became an adjunct professor teaching ethics at the University of Texas at Austin. Thanks to the power of her oratory, she had earned a lasting reputation as a powerful force in American politics and, in 1990, was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame as one of the most influential women of the twentieth century. In 1992, she was again the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention at which she nominated President Bill Clinton. In 1994, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her health in decline, she died on January 17, 1996, survived by her partner of 30 years, Nancy Earl. On April 24, 2009 a statue was dedicated in her memory at the University of Texas.

The Legacy Project recognizes the many roles Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered people have played in the advancment of world history and culture. The Legacy Walk, the only outdoor International GLBT history museum in the world, is coming to N. Halsted Street in Chicago and will be dedicated on Oct. 11, 2011. For information, to donate or to volunteer, see www.legacyprojectchicago.org . Sponsored by Gerber/Hart Library, fiscal agent.


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