Today in Black History 07/12/2015 | Barbara Jordan, First African American woman delivers keynote at the Democratic National Convention - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History 07/12/2015 | Barbara Jordan, First African American woman delivers keynote at the Democratic National Convention


July 12, 1976 Barbara Charlene Jordan became the first African American woman to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Her speech is considered by many historians to be the best convention keynote speech in modern history. Jordan was born February 21, 1936 in Houston, Texas. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, from Texas Southern University in 1956 and her Juris Doctor degree from Boston University in 1959. Jordan was the first Black woman elected to the Texas State Senate in 1966 and served until 1972. That year, she became the first African American woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives from a southern state. During her time in Congress, she supported the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 that required financial institutions to lend and make services available to underserved poor and minority communities and the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Jordan retired from politics in 1979 and became adjunct professor at the University of Texas. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990 and was awarded the 1992 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal. Jordan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President William J. Clinton August 8, 1994 and the United States Military Academy’s Sylvanus Thayer Award in 1995, the second female recipient. Jordan died January 17, 1996. She was the first Black woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. A statue of Jordan was unveiled at the University of Texas in Austin April 24, 2009 and the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2011. Her biography, “Barbara Jordan: American Hero,” was published in 2000 and a collection of her speeches, “Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder,” was published in 2007. Jordan’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

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