Thursday, November 29, 2012

Happy Holidays from the Barbara Jordan Archives

Part of our mission at the Barbara Jordan Archives is to educate people about Jordan’s life and legacy, but we also have an obligation to teach students, scholars and the public at large about the value and necessity of archives as a way to preserve our history and our culture.  And yes, archives are often are taken very seriously as repositories for bodies of work and storehouses of knowledge.  But every now and then we have to remind ourselves of the more lighthearted side of archival work.  What better time than the holiday season?

This year, we thought it would be fun to find some holiday-themed materials in the Jordan Archives.  As Jordan was known for being a private person in a public setting, finding these materials was not easy—but we managed to find a few fun and interesting items that point not only to the busy professional life of the Congresswoman, but how in demand her time was even during the holiday seasons.  Click here to download the virtual exhibit (you will need Office PowerPoint 2007 or newer to view the exhibit, or download PowerPoint Viewer here for free).  Or, if you’re in the area, stop by and see the actual exhibit at the Robert J. Terry Library through the end of December 2012.

Have a wonderful holiday season from the Barbara Jordan Archives, TSU Special Collections and the staff of the Robert J. Terry Library!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation honors Jordan and other historic Houstonians

The Barbara Jordan Archives was honored recently to be approached by the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation to help with an art work project involving the late Congresswoman. Since 1989, The Fifth Ward CRC has made strides to revitalize and reinvigorate Houston’s historic Fifth Ward through community service, housing developments, art installations and beautification projects, and partnerships with businesses, philanthropic enterprises and political representatives. 

Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee and Tory Gunsolley of the 
Houston Housing Authority admire the art work installed in 
bus shelters along the Lyons Avenue corridor.  
The Fifth Ward CRC was recently involved in a three-day service project in partnership with Starbucks Coffee Company and the Fifth Ward community.  The event took place during Starbucks’s Leadership Conference held in Houston that was attended by over 10,000 volunteers—5260 of whom helped to transform part of Houston’s historic Fifth Ward along Lyons Avenue.  The volunteers worked on projects such as clearing vacant lots, power washing homes, paint scraping, and working with small business owners on their store exteriors, just to name a few.  The Fifth Ward CRC helped design an art installation in a Metro bus shelter paying tribute to Congresswoman Jordan, Congressman Mickey Leland, and other movers and shakers of the Fifth Ward’s rich and vibrant history.  The Barbara Jordan Archives contributed an iconic image of Jordan taken in the Fifth Ward from the late 1960s as her political career was just beginning.  The Fifth Ward CRC project was very meaningful to Jordan’s life and legacy as she was born and raised in the Fifth Ward—and in fact, Jordan’s law office was right on Lyons Avenue in the early 1960s.

From left: Mayor Annise Parker, Metro CEO George Grenias,
 security personnel, and Jason Few of Reliant Energy. 
We salute the Fifth Ward CRC for their hard work and continued dedication to the revitalization of the Fifth Ward, and thank them again for honoring the legacy of Barbara Jordan.  To learn more about the Fifth Ward CRC, please visit their website at and their Facebook page here.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

American Archives Month

It's October, and that means it's American Archives Month!

American Archives Month, established by the Society of American Archivists in 2006, is a collaborative effort by professional archivists and archival repositories around the
nation to highlight the importance of materials and records of enduring value--this includes things like photographs, manuscripts, letters, newspapers and advertisements, family records, business records, diaries, audio/video footage, artwork, trophies, etc.

Note the shipping label on the case.
American Archives Month affords the Barbara Jordan Archives the opportunity to highlight some of the more rare and unusual materials in the collection that fall outside of the typical paper manuscript and photographs commonly found in many archival collections.  For example, the most unusual (and certainly the heaviest) item in the Jordan Archives is a 1970s JVC videocassette recorder, complete with a steel-cornered traveling trunk.  These video recorders were among the first to be produced for use by the general public; up to then such equipment was only available to television stations or the wealthy. This particular model recorded and played back 3/4-inch U-Matic tapes, the forerunner to the more common 1/2-inch VCR tapes that most people born before 1990 are familiar with.  It's not known exactly what Jordan's purpose for owning such a machine, though Jordan was known for paying close attention to current issues discussed on political pundit shows (CBS Sunday Morning, Meet the Press, or the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, for example); in the days before 24-hour cable news channels and the internet, it's likely that Jordan wanted to keep as connected as possible to the political news of the day.  And there are over 100 U-Matic tapes in Jordan's collection (currently being prepared for digitization) that attest to the fact that the machine was indeed put to use.

What makes this piece of equipment so unusual is that Jordan apparently traveled with it (the protective case still has an identification label affixed to the front), which is even more impressive considering the size and weight of the machine. The recorder alone is about 40 pounds, while the wood and metal case adds at least another 60 pounds, and the case itself measures roughly 2 feet by 3 feet by 1 and 1/2 feet.  One could surmise that the recorder must have been an important tool for Jordan for her to purchase one and then to travel with it, at what must have been a considerable cost.

So, archives are not always just about old papers, faded photographs and dusty file boxes.  Digging a little further can sometimes yield some interesting buried treasure.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Barbara Jordan at the DNC - 1976 and 1992

Jordan at the 1976 DNC with
Chairman Robert Strauss.
With all the excitement and debate surrounding the recent political conventions for the upcoming national elections, we felt we couldn't let the 2012 Democratic National Convention pass without remembering Jordan's historic roles at the 1976 and the 1992 Conventions.  Why are they historic?  For two reasons:

Reason number one--

Jordan was the first African American, man or woman, to deliver a keynote address at the 1976 DNC.  See video links to her speech here:

Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

Reason number two--

Jordan was the first African American woman to deliver a keynote speech at a DNC twice.  She did it again in 1992:

Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

Jordan's delivery, presence, and command of the crowd is still memorable today. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jordan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Yesterday, President Barack Obama presented 13 recipients with the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian (non-military) honor that can be bestowed on a person by a sitting American president.  Established in 1963, the Presidential Medal of Freedom replaced the Medal of Freedom established in 1945 by President Truman to honor civilian service during World War II.  The PMOF is not limited to U.S. citizens, and is open to military personnel as well as civilians and public servants.  A diverse group of 2012 medalists included folk singer Bob Dylan, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, author Toni Morrison (a one-time Texas Southern University professor), and retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, among others.

Jordan and President Clinton
 Jordan was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton on August 8, 1994.  Surrounded by sisters Bennie and Rose Mary and close friend Nancy Earl, Jordan’s co-recipients included Mexican American activist Cesar Chavez (posthumously), Sargent Shriver, and in a strange coincidence, civil rights activist and former National President of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority Dorothy Height—Height’s signature appears on Jordan’s Delta pledge certificate, dated 1953.

Jordan, the Clintons and
sisters Rose Mary (left)
 and Bennie
In another interesting coincidence, former Senator and astronaut John Glenn also received a Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday—Glenn was one of two keynote speakers at the 1976 Democratic Convention, along with Jordan.  Jordan made one of her most famous speeches at this convention, hyping up the crowd so much that Jordan’s name was bandied about as a possible Vice Presidential running mate for Jimmy Carter (and Jordan actually secured one nomination as a presidential candidate at the convention).  Glenn, in contrast, gave a much more subdued speech that was not nearly as well received as Jordan’s had been—Glenn noted in his autobiography that “Jordan was a hard act to follow.” 

Jordan was buried with her Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

In honor of Cinco de Mayo and Jordan's support of the Hispanic community of Texas, we offer a special exhibit chronicling 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. Thanks to Jordan's efforts, we've had bilingual voting materials at polling places ever since.  Jordan's victory had its hurdles, though--for example, then-President Gerald Ford tried to block the bill in the Senate and it took a Jordan supporter in the Senate to invoke a little-used special senatorial procedure to break a filibuster. Jordan considered the passage of the amendment to be the highlight of her political career. 

Please visit our online exhibit at Flickr to learn more:  click a link for an 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 or in electronic format on our museum's audiovisual display at Texas Southern University. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Dream Remembered

Houston Chronicle, April 5, 1969
Today marks the 44th anniversary of the passing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.  Recently, we came across this article in one of Jordan’s scrapbooks.  Jordan spoke at a memorial service in Houston in 1969, one year after the death of King.  In her address, Jordan noted the racial tensions in Houston at the time, particularly among college students; Jordan implored black and white Houstonians alike to remember the teachings and philosophies of Dr. King and asked the Houston community to make an effort to understand one another.

First page from Jordan's King speech, 1976
Jordan also gave an address some time in 1976 (the exact date, location and occasion are unknown at this writing) reflecting on achievements within the African American community in the eight years after King’s death, particularly in the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.  To read the entire speech, click here for a slideshow.

We present these pieces from the Jordan Papers as an acknowledgement that Jordan believed in and supported King’s message and dream. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jordan Exhibit at the State Capitol

In honor of Barbara Jordan Week and Jordan’s 76th birthday, the Barbara Jordan Archives, in conjunction with the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT-Austin, the Barbara Jordan Freedom Foundation and Senator Rodney Ellis, has installed an exhibit entitled “Congresswoman Barbara Jordan:  American Hero, Texas Legend” in the ground level rotunda at the Texas State Capitol.  A ten-by-twenty foot timeline and over a dozen panels tell Jordan’s story from her beginnings in Houston,  to her achievements in both the Texas Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, to her teaching career at UT-Austin and to her untimely death at age 59.   The purpose of the exhibit is to both salute the incredible career and achievements of Jordan for those who remember her time in the public eye, and to educate people (especially the young students and scholars of Texas) about a real-life Texas hero.  The exhibit will run through February 24, 2012. 

For those who will not be able to see the exhibit in person, we have created an online version of the exhibit.  You may view the slide show by clicking here or view and download a full-color PDF version by clicking here.  We hope you enjoy the exhibit!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Happy Birthday, Barbara Jordan!

Texas Senate Resolution no. 180, honoring
Jordan's birthday in 1969. 

February 21, 2012 marks what would have been Barbara Jordan's 76th birthday.  In honor of the occasion, there are several events the Barbara Jordan Archives would like to make you aware of.  The 82ndTexas Legislature has designated the week of February 21-27 as Barbara Jordan Freedom Week, (week of February 21 -27), and with the assistance of the Barbara Jordan Archives at Texas Southern University, the Barbara Jordan Freedom Foundation, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at University of Texas-Austin and the generosity of the Tocker Family Foundation, an interactive timeline and panel display highlighting Jordan’s life and achievements will be installed in the ground floor rotunda of the Texas State Capitol.  We are very excited about the exhibit as it incorporates many photographs, documents and artifacts from the Archives.  The exhibit will be open from Tuesday, February 21 – Friday, February 24.  Read the press release here.

Also, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at University of Texas-Austin is also hosting a week-long series of events for Barbara Jordan Week, including speakers, brown-bag discussions and workshops, all related to Barbara Jordan and topics such as voting, racial barriers, and social justice. Read more about the LBJ School events here.

Next week, we will post a virtual version of the capitol exhibit so those of you who will not be able to visit the exhibit in person will have a chance to enjoy it and learn more about the life and triumphs of Barbara Jordan. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Black History Month 2012: Barbara Jordan and the Equal Rights Amendment

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) has designated “Black Women in American Culture and History” for the official theme of Black History Month 2012.  In observance of this year’s theme, the Barbara Jordan Archives takes a look back at Congresswoman Barbara Jordan's work with the Equal Rights Amendment in a virtual exhibit.

Jordan in her office at the Texas Senate, ca 1969
Jordan was one of only two women in the Texas Senate in 1969 (along with Frances “Sissy” Farenholt in the House) when Congress yet again debated an Equal Rights Amendment. The two women banded together to cosponsor passage of the ERA in Texas, and then decided to propose an equal rights amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women to the Texas Constitution. Jordan continued to speak out on the ERA and the importance of its nationwide passage throughout her Congressional career--for instance, Jordan worked on legislation such as a bill to provide Social Security benefits for homemakers.  And during her last term, Jordan joined with her fellow Congresswomen to fight for an extension of the ERA ratification process that was due to expire in 1979.  

To learn more about the Equal Rights Amendment and the role Jordan played in the debates, click here for the virtual exhibit.

From the Barbara Jordan Archives--happy Black History Month!