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Allow me to introduce you to Barbara Jordan, who said “Life is too large to hang out a sign: For Men Only”. Jordan was a woman, an African American woman, a lawyer, a politician, who transcended barriers despite systemic segregation.
Born in 1936, Jordan was inspired to become an attorney after hearing a speech by an African American female lawyer at the segregated high school she attended. She went on to Texas Southern University (TSU), where she graduated magna cum laude as part of the university’s inaugural class - TSU was created to avoid integrating the University of Texas. Jordan joined the debate team, the only woman when she joined, and led the all Black team to win over Brown and Yale and tied with Harvard.
Jordan attended Boston University’s law school in 1956, one of only two African American women in her class. Following graduation, she returned to Texas to open a law office, and was one of only three African American women licensed to practice law in 1959. In 1962, she ran for her first bid for the for the state senate, winning after her third attempt. As a state senator, she worked to pass the state minimum wage law that covered farmworkers, and she was elected president pro tem.
Jordan was then elected to the U.S. Congress and was the first African American woman from a Southern state to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. She served in the House Judiciary Committee, and her legislative work included a focus on women’s rights and the Equal Rights Amendment.
In 1996, she died and became the first African American to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.
This Black History month let’s honor Jordan with one intentional act, however small, that promotes equality.