Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays from the Barbara Jordan Archives!  This time of year we like to display seasonal times from Jordan’s papers.  Last year we looked at official Congressional invitations to Christmas parties, holiday gatherings, etc.  This year we thought it would be fun to take a look at a few Christmas cards that Jordan received from some noteworthy senders.  We only have a handful of Jordan’s personal holiday cards, unfortunately, but what Jordan chose to keep was definitely worth saving—and some of these probably not have been seen in decades.  Click on the images to see a larger view.  Enjoy, and have the merriest of holiday seasons! 

President Gerald and Betty Ford card, front.  1978

President Gerald and Betty Ford card, interior.  1978

President Jimmy and Roslyn Carter card, front.  1978

President Jimmy and Roslyn Carter card, interior.  1978

Vice President Walter and Joan Mondale card, front.  1978

Vice President Walter and Joan Mondale card, interior.  1978

Congresswoman Cardiss Collins card, front.  1978

Congresswoman Cardiss Collins card, interior.  1978

President Bill and Hillary Clinton card, 1994.   This card measures 16" x 16" and was sent to Jordan in an oversized envelope.
Elvis Presley postcard, 1975.  This was created by the Las Vegas Hilton, where Presley performed several times a year in the 1970s.  Presley's longtime manager "Colonel" Tom Parker is dressed as Santa, left. 

Elvis Presley postcard, reverse.  1975

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Solving Puzzles

(l-r)  Jordan, Joanne Cole and Criss Cole, State Capitol, September  9, 1969
Originally, this posting of “Buried Treasures” was intended to be a salute to the 57th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case ruling that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional.  There were a few photographs listed in the old photographs inventory of the Jordan Papers that were purportedly of Jordan giving a speech on November 15, 1973 in observation of the ruling, so we thought we could highlight Jordan’s involvement with this historic decision.  However, the five photographs contained no information; thus, no clues to the location, the exact date or the nature of the event were present, other than a handwritten label on the photographs folder stating “Brown Decision Anniversary, November 15, 1973.”  And further, the largest image appeared to be taken in the Texas Senate chambers by the look of the desks and furnishings; this was the first indication that the photos might have been mislabeled, because Jordan had moved on to Congress by that point. Additionally, Jordan’s hairstyle and clothing seemed a bit dated for 1973.  So, we began by checking Jordan’s travel itineraries and appointment schedules to see if we could determine if Jordan had made a speech at a Brown v. Board commemorative event during that period of time, but no luck.  Next, we checked Jordan’s newspaper clippings scrapbooks from the June-December 1973 date range—still nothing.  

Reverse of above image with backing removed.
Notice the double sided masking tape.
We then noticed that the largest of the images (featuring Jordan and an unnamed man and woman) had a cardboard backing affixed to the reverse side of the image; these backings are not uncommon (unfortunately) with photographs collections from this time period.  Many archives would use original photographs for exhibit purposes and would mount the photographs to give them extra stability (and sometimes the original owner of a photograph might also affix a mounting themselves for various reasons).  The problem is that most adhesives, such as glues and tapes, are highly acidic and therefore destructive to photographs.  In most cases, the best thing to do with photographs that are mounted in such a way (such as in scrapbooks and the old “magnetic page” photo albums of the 1970s and 80s) is to simply leave the photographs alone as removing them may cause further damage to the images.

State Capital Review, ca. September 10, 1969.
However, this particular photograph’s backing was somewhat loose, so we were able to expose enough of the back to discover a date, a photographer's stamp and some writing.  What we found indicated that the images were NOT from a Brown vs. Board anniversary event.  Instead, we discovered that the images were taken at the Texas Senate chambers in Austin on September 9, 1969, the last day of the 61st Legislative Session.  A check of Jordan’s clipping scrapbooks revealed a newspaper article that detailed Jordan’s nomination of Criss Cole for president pro tempore of the Texas Senate during the final hours of the session.  Cole was a Houston lawyer and a member of the Texas House of Representatives and Senate (1955-1962 and 1963-1970, respectively) and a former Marine who lost his sight while serving during World War II.  After Jordan’s nomination, Cole was elected president pro tempore and served as Governor for a Day of Texas in 1970; coincidentally, of course, Jordan would be awarded the same honor in 1972.  Thus, the unnamed couple appearing in the main photograph with Jordan are Criss Cole and his wife Joanne.  (You can read more about Cole and the visual-impairment rehabilitation center named for him here.)

This is a great example of the value of archives and why we call this blog “Buried Treasures.”  Taking a second, closer look at an item and doing a little detective work can uncover some surprising stories and truths.  We think Jordan, known for her preparation work and research, would agree. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Another First...

Jordan addresses the Texas Democratic Party, 1970
Houston Post article, 1970
Jordan has been called a "woman of firsts":  the first African American woman to reside over a state body (Governor For A Day, 1972); the first African American woman from the deep South to be elected to the House of Representatives; the first African American to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention; and the list goes on.  It was with surprise and excitement that it was discovered recently (or, more accurately, rediscovered) that Jordan was the first African American to be named to an office in the history of the Texas Democratic Party. On September 15, 1970, Jordan was appointed Temporary Secretary to the Texas Democratic Party during the state convention.  The speech that Jordan delivered that day accepting the job was discovered in a box of speeches pertaining to democracy; a little digging turned up newspaper articles in Jordan's clippings scrapbooks and a few photographs of the event.  What is surprising about this event is that very little mention has been made of this milestone in biographies and histories written about Jordan; Jordan didn't even mention it in her own autobiography!  Yet, as Jordan stated in her speech:

Jordan's speech at the
Texas Democratic Convention
This is a historical moment, and I want all of us to take note that this is the first time in the history of the State Democratic Convention that a black person has been named as an officer of this convention.  I think it is past due that we did this.

Surprises like this are what make archives almost a living, breathing entity:  we are constantly uncovering new things about Barbara Jordan, and thus her legacy of "firsts" continues.  Who knows what other "firsts" will be uncovered by future Barbara Jordan researchers?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Veterans Day 2011 and Dorie Miller

In honor of Veterans Day, the Barbara Jordan Archives would like to share a virtual exhibit about Doris "Dorie" Miller, the first African American to receive the Navy Cross.  The archives has a small collection of photographs and memorabilia of the 1973 commission of the destroyer escort ship USS Miller as well as copies of the speech that Jordan gave in Miller's honor at the ceremony.  It seemed fitting that Jordan, a woman of many firsts for African Americans, be the person to speak on behalf of a man who made his own mark in African American history.

Miller, a Waco native, was one of the first American servicemen to respond when the Japanese staged a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Miller, stationed on the USS West Virginia, commandeered an anti-aircraft machine gun (which he'd never been trained to use) and shot down several enemy planes before he was forced to abandon the sinking battleship along with his crew mates.  About a year later, for his valiant performance, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross (at the time, the third highest honor bestowed by the Navy) by none other than Admiral Nimitz.  Miller returned to active duty--which meant he returned to his posting as Cook, Third Class.  Ironically, while some of his ship mates received promotions, Miller did not.  

Miller was reassigned to the USS Liscome Bay and shipped back out to the Pacific in 1943.  On November 24 that same year, the Japanese again staged a surprise attack and the ship was sunk off the coast of the Gilbert Islands.  Dorie Miller died along with over 600 other sailors.  Miller was recognized as a hero, though, and was also awarded the Purple Heart Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.  

In 1973, the Navy decided to commission a new destroyer escort in Miller's name.  On June 30, 1973, Navy officials, dignitaries, and Miller's family and friends gathered to witness the commission of the USS Miller in Norfolk, Virginia.  Congresswoman Barbara Jordan gave the keynote speech, in which she honored Miller for giving the ultimate sacrifice "in the defense of freedom."  

The USS Miller stayed in active duty throughout the Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Persian Gulf and the Black Sea regions until it was decommissioned in 1991.  In 1995, the U.S. Navy sold the ship to Turkey, who used it for parts and target practice, finally sinking the ship in 2001.  Even with the USS Miller no longer in existence, Miller's legacy continues.  Dorie Miller's legacy lives on, however--to date, several schools and VFW posts have been named in his honor, and the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp with Miller as the subject in 2010.  Most famously, Miller was portrayed by Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the 2001 epic Pearl Harbor

If you'd like to learn more about Doris "Dorie" Miller, click here to visit the Dorie Miller Memorial Foundation.   To visit our virtual exhibit about Miller click here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

American Archives Month 2011

Did you know that October is American Archives Month?  Established by the Society of American Archivists in 2006, American Archives Month is an opportunity to celebrate the importance of archives in scholarly research, national history and our personal journeys.  Archives from the Smithsonian to the smallest local repositories are planning all sorts of activities to highlight collections and items of interest.  The Special Collections department at TSU’s Robert J. Terry Library (of which the Barbara Jordan Archives is a part) is commemorating American Archives Month with a moving exhibit called “Find It In The Archives!” that focuses on items and papers held in the Heartman Rare Books Collection, the University Archives, and of course the Barbara Jordan Archives.  Some of the items include photographs, reproductions of correspondence, magazines, programs, flyers, and other items that spotlight the history of Texas Southern University, the greater Houston area, famous African Americans in every discipline and industry, and notable Texans.  The exhibit will travel from floor to floor in the library and items on display will change on a regular basis to document the wide range of material in Special Collections.  We invite you to come to the Robert J. Terry Library to “Find It In The Archives!”  For more information on American Archives Month, click here.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jordan Forever: The Commemorative Stamp Unveiling

l - r:  Ruth Bledsoe, Rosemary McGowan, Joyce Thomas 
The unveiling of the Barbara Jordan commemorative stamp was a smashing success this past September 16!  Following the “Women for Barbara” breakfast/fundraiser the Hilton Americas hosted by the Barbara Jordan/Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs,  the Postal Service staged the official unveiling of the Jordan stamp at Granville Sawyer Auditorium on the TSU campus.  Some 500 people turned out to celebrate, including dignitaries, local politicians, students from Jack Yates High School and the WALLIP-TSU Preparatory Academy, alumnae from Delta Sigma Theta, the campus community, and Jordan supporters from the greater Houston area. 
Photo by Joyce Thomas
Highlights of the ceremony included remarks from Congresspersons Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green, Ms. Merlie Evers Williams, and Luci Baines Johnson (daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson).  Jordan’s sister, Rosemary McGowan, was also present to see her younger sister immortalized with the 34th commemorative stamp in the USPS’s Black Heritage series.
The Barbara Jordan Archives was proud to present its timeline display outside Sawyer Auditorium, taking observers through the  highlights of the Congresswoman’s life and her many milestones and achievements via words and images.  After the ceremony, the Archives and Special Collections was honored to receive Ms. Johnson, Representatives Jackson Lee and Green, and many representatives and officers from the Postal Service who helped make the stamp unveiling such a success.  The Barbara Jordan Forever Stamp is now on sale at post offices throughout the country, online at or by phone at 1-800-782-6724.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Congress Week 2011

Did you know that this September 17 marks the 224th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution?  To mark the occasion,  September 12-16, 2011 has been established as Congress Week.  Texas Southern University Special Collections and the Barbara Jordan Archives are members of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress, a professional organization of information specialists that support and promote a wide range of educational and informative programs for students, scholars, and the public at large about the history of Congress and the process by which public policies are set.  To learn more about the ACSC and Congress Week, click here.

TSU and the Barbara Jordan Archives are proud to present our 2011 Congress Week exhibit, which salutes the five TSU graduates  (Al Green, Hank Johnson, Craig Washington, Mickey Leland, and of course, Barbara Jordan) who represented their constituents in Congress.  To see our online exhibit, click here.  We will also have a physical installation of this exhibit at the Robert J. Terry Library in the main lobby during Congress Week.   Join us in celebrating the lives and achievements of these outstanding TSU alums!  

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jordan Commemorative Stamp News

It's been a long and busy summer for us here at the Barbara Jordan Archives.  We've been preparing for the fall semester as well as for some exciting events happening very soon!  As we mentioned some time back, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan is being honored by the United States Postal Service with a commemorative stamp as part of the Black Heritage series.  The official unveiling and First Day of Issue ceremony will be held on Texas Southern University's campus at the Granville Sawyer Auditorium on Friday, September 16, 2011 at 11am.  For reservations, please call 1-866-268-3243 no later than September 9.  Stamps will be on sale at the event, so be among the first to own a piece of Texas history!  As part of the celebration, the Barbara Jordan Archives will have several displays highlighting artifacts and memorabilia from Jordan's collection, so be sure to stop by the archives at the Robert J. Terry Library (next door to the Sawyer Auditorium) after the ceremony!  In addition, the Houston Philatelic Society will be exhibiting and selling the Jordan stamp as part of their "First Day of Sale" activities at the Greater Houston Stamp Show in Humble the weekend of September 16-18, 2011. For more information, click here.

And as if that were not exciting enough, the Barbara Jordan/Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University is hosting a "Women for Barbara" fundraising breakfast at the Hilton Americas - Houston on Friday, September 16 from 8-10am, just prior to the stamp unveiling at TSU.  Tickets range from $100 to $250, and the proceeds will go towards scholarships for TSU students.  Click here to make your reservation.

Also, we will be celebrating Congress Week again this year from September 12-16, 2011, sponsored by the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress.  The ACSC is a professional organization of archivists and curators who maintain archives and collections of political movers and shakers throughout American history.  The Barbara Jordan Archives was represented at the ACSC meeting in Washington, D.C. this past May at the National Archives; a short presentation was given about the timeline exhibit that was installed at the BJ/ML School of Public Affairs this past February and March.  This year, we will again honor Jordan as well as four other TSU graduates (Mickey Leland, Craig Washington, Hank Johnson, and Al Green) who all went on to become U.S. Representatives--quite a feat for a school that's been in existence for less than 100 years!  We will have an exhibit in place at the Robert J. Terry Library's Special Collections during that week so you can learn more about these five great alums.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

It's been a while since we've had an update--things have slowed down a bit with the archives since the 75th birthday celebration and progression of the semester here at TSU. That said, we are looking forward to the postage stamp unveiling which will happen sometime this fall (location is still to be determined, we'll keep you posted).

In the meantime, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, we wanted to create an exhibit that told the story of Jordan's involvement with the Voting Rights Act of 1975. This legislation was an extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which essence prohibited states from using poll taxes, literacy tests, "grandfather clauses," or gerrymandering in elections--these were typical tactics used to deny or curtail the voting rights of US citizens on account of race or color, particularly in the Southern states. When the Act was due for reauthorization in 1975, Jordan became interested in extending voting rights to Mexican American voters, chiefly due to the interest of her staffers Bob Alcock and Bud Myers, who were connected with many civil rights lobbyists in Washington. They brought to Jordan's attention the fact that Mexican American voters were having difficulties with voter blocking and intimidation in many parts of the U.S., particularly in areas with high concentrations of Hispanics--including Texas. Texan attorney Paul Cedillo, Jr., also brought to Jordan's attention an incident involving voter intimidation at a school board election in Rosenberg, Texas in 1975, sending her affidavits from Mexican American voters who were turned away from the polls for a variety of reasons. Jordan had a personal interest in the issue as she had connections to MALDEF, LULAC, and had even assisted Cesar Chavez during a 1967 protest in Texas over minimum wages for migrant workers; in addition, her chief aide Bob Alcock’s mother was a Mexican native, so the issue of voting rights for Mexican Americans hit close to home for Jordan.

Jordan decided the time was right to amend the Voting Rights Act to not only include Spanish-speaking citizens, but other language-minority voters--and to make sure Texas, which was excluded from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in terms of voting fairness for language-minorities was included in the reauthorization. Please visit our online exhibit at Flickr to learn more: English version or En EspaƱol (note: you can pause any slide at any time by clicking the pause icon at the bottom left of the slide show). Or, if you're in the Houston area, please visit us at the Robert J. Terry Library's Special Collections, and you can see our exhibit in person through the month of May.

Monday, March 7, 2011

National Women's History Month

Did you know that March is National Women's History Month? In 1978, noticing a huge gap in K-12 curriculum, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women initiated a "Women's History Week." In 1987, a Congressional resolution expanded the week to a full month. The governing body that oversees National Women's History Month, the National Women's History Project, was founded in 1980 and has forged a continuing mission to further study of multicultural women'sactive role in creating history. The NWHP is known "as the only clearinghouse providing information and training in multicultural women’s history for educators, community organizations, and parents" (from the NWHP website--read more about the National Women's History Project here). This year's theme is "Our HISTORY is Our Strength."

In honor of National Women's History Month, the Barbara Jordan Archives has assembled a special exhibit at TSU's Robert J. Terry Library that highlights Barbara Jordan's special awards and citations that are part of the Jordan Papers. The collection includes plaques, certificates, medals, city keys, signed photographs, and proclamations awarded to Jordan from the national, state and local levels.

In accordance with the National Women's History Month theme, Jordan's history lies in the fact that she was a strong woman: a strong speaker; a strong role model; a strong politician; a strong educator; and a strong leader. Jordan's awards number in the hundreds, and they stand as a testament to the high esteem in which Houston, the state of Texas and, indeed, America held Barbara Jordan, the girl from the Fifth Ward who made a difference. We are delighted to put some of Jordan’s treasures on display as an opportunity for our students, patrons and friends to learn more about Jordan.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Barbara Jordan: 75th Birthday Diamond Jubilee--Kickoff Event!

Tonight, February 17, 2011, marks the kickoff of Barbara Jordan's Diamond Jubilee celebration, honoring what would have been Jordan's 75th birthday this February 21. The events are sponsored by the Barbara Jordan/Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. Tonight we will have a reception at the Robert J. Terry Library on the TSU campus from 6:3o-8:30pm--there will be speakers, food, and a chance to see some of the treasures held at the Barbara Jordan Archives. Everyone is welcome to attend! There are other activities scheduled for this Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday--for more information, click here. We hope to see you there--stop by and say hello!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Barbara Jordan--75th Birthday Diamond Jubilee

This February 21 marks what would have been Jordan's 75th birthday. In honor of the occasion, the Barbara Jordan/Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University is launching a series of events that will begin Thursday February 17, 2011 with a kick-0ff reception at the Barbara Jordan Archives. Over the course of a few days, the School of Public Affairs will be hosting speaking events, a tree-planting ceremony at Barbara Jordan Park, an essay contest, and a worship service and portrait unveiling at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church. To the right is a schedule of events. For more information, contact information for the School of Public Affairs can be found here or you can contact the Barbara Jordan Archives at 713-313-7298. We hope you'll be able to join us at one or all of these events to celebrate the life of a great speaker, a fine stateswoman and a visionary.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Barbara Jordan and Black History Month

Did you know February is African American History Month (also known as Black History Month)? Historian Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in the early 20th century, and the organization conceived Negro History Week in 1925 in order to promote the contributions and achievements of African Americans to America's rich history and culture. Negro History Week was expanded to a month in 1976 to coincide with America's bicentennial and the event's name was changed to Black History Month. Each year has a different theme, and this year's theme looks at African Americans and the Civil War. Read more about African American History month here.

This article about Barbara Jordan appeared in today's Houston Chronicle, briefly describing the stunning and culture-changing achievements of this native Houstonian. Jordan remains a shining example of strength and determination to make things better for all people. (Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Thank You from Cesar Chavez

Here’s an interesting find—a signed letter from Cesar Chavez to Jordan, dated January 30, 1974. Nearly 37 years ago, Chavez wrote this letter to Jordan in response to the congratulatory note she sent when Chavez received an award. Chavez was a Mexican-American farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist who was a cofounder of what is now known as the United Farm Workers (UFW), one of the foremost labor organizations in America today. In 1967, Chavez and the Texas affiliate of the UFW staged a march from the Rio Grande Valley to Austin to protest poor working conditions and low wages, asking for the passage of a minimum wage law. Jordan met with Chavez and the other workers, promising a hearing on a fair wage bill in the Texas Senate, and Jordan did co-sponsor a bill with Texas Senator Joe Bernal. While that particular bill died in committee, Jordan continued to work to get minimum wage laws successfully passed in Texas later in her Senate career. Chavez and Jordan shared an affinity and a vision for trying to make things better for all disadvantaged Americans.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Letters to Ms. Jordan

The Barbara Jordan Archives contains thousands of pieces of correspondence from people who wrote to Jordan—mainly Jordan’s constituents—on a variety of topics, ranging from current issues, persons requesting assistance with legal or personal problems, requests for autographs and photos, and even fan mail. While most of Jordan’s correspondence is from the everyday people she represented in Washington, she also heard from many famous and influential people, both in and out of politics. Here’s a letter from Sargent Shriver, who died on January 18, 2011 at the age of 95. Shriver was married to Eunice Kennedy, sister of President John F. Kennedy. Shriver was the former Ambassador to France, a director of the Peace Corps, and a running mate to George McGovern in the former’s unsuccessful Presidential bid in 1972; Shriver himself ran for President unsuccessfully in 1976. Shriver was also the father of news correspondent and journalist Maria Shriver (otherwise known as Mrs. Arnold Schwartzenegger and former first lady of California). Shriver took the occasion to write Jordan a congratulatory letter upon her reelection to Congress in 1974.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Barbara Jordan Postage Stamp

The United States Postal Service (USPS) issued a press release a few days ago announcing the publication of a postage stamp honoring Barbara Jordan. It is the 34th stamp issued as part of the USPS "Black Heritage" series, which includes such notable and influential figures as Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. Dubois, Malcolm X and Ella Fitzgerald. You can read the press release from the USPS about Jordan's stamp here.

The Barbara Jordan Archives has had the honor and privilege of working with the United States Postal Service on this project, and we are excited to take part in such a historical undertaking and celebration of Jordan's life and accomplishments. (Note: stamp image copyright USPS and artist Albert Slark, 2010.)