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Barbara Jordan


Barbara Jordan
Photograph by Tom O'Halloran, 1976 April 7, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Barbara Jordan: Black Lesbian Politician:

Barbara Jordan was an accomplished politician from Texas. Although she was in a long-term relationship with another woman for more than 20 years, she never publicly came out. It was only after her death in 1996 that the press reported about her sexual orientation.

First in Senate:

Barbara was born February 21, 1936 in Houston, Texas. She graduated with honors from Texas Southern University in 1956 and received her law degree from Boston University in 1959. Barbara was the first African American woman elected to the Texas Senate, winning the election in 1966.

First to Lead a Legislative Body:

When she was elected president pro-tempore of the Texas Senate in 1972, she was the first African American to preside over a legislative body in the United States.

On to Congress:

When she was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1972, she was the first African American woman to be elected to that body from a Southern State.

Democratic Convention:

When she gave the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in 1976, she became the first woman to deliver a keynote address at a political convention in the U.S.


Barbara was known for her work on the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings that would lead to the resignation of President Nixon.

Voters Rights:

Barbara was also successful in her efforts to expand the Voting Rights Act to include non-English speakers.

On to Education:

Jordan retired from politics in 1979, but continued to teach at the University of Texas until her death in 1996.

Long-Time Companion:

She met her partner Nancy Earl on a camping trip in the 1960s. The two were together for more than 20 years. Jordan never came out publicly, but her obituary in the Houston Chronicle called Earl her long-time companion.

Barbara Jordan Awards and Quotee:

  • Jordan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award for a civilian in 1994.
  • "My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total and I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminuation, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution." Testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, July 25, 1974
  • "How do we create a harmonious society out of so many kinds of people? The key is tolerance -- the one value that is indispensable in creating community. One thing is clear to me: We, as human beings, must be willing to accept people who are different from ourselves."

    From Sesame Street Parents, July/August, 1994

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