Women’s History Month offers us a unique opportunity to highlight the life and legacy of Texas women who fought to make our state and our country a better place. Barbara Jordan undoubtedly earned her place in history throughout her career in politics. Born in Houston, Jordan fought tirelessly to defend civil rights at a time when African Americans were oppressed and excluded in every aspect of society. Throughout her career, she worked to break down barriers and build a more equitable nation for everyone.
Jordan went to Phillis Wheatley High School, a segregated school that lacked adequate resources for students of color. Despite the roadblocks in her way, she demonstrated a passion for education from an early age. She graduated with honors from Texas Southern University, a historically Black university, and completed her law degree from Boston University in 1959.
“If the society today allows wrongs to go unchallenged, the impression is created that those wrongs have the approval of the majority.” – Barbara Jordan
Jordan returned to Texas after completing law school and began practicing in her hometown of Houston, Texas. She was instrumental in the election of John F. Kennedy to the Presidency, turning out voters at unprecedented levels.
Jordan dedicated her career to building a more inclusive Texas; a Texas where diversity was seen as a strength and not a weakness. Knowing that her election would be an uphill battle, she still ran for the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and 1964 because she wanted to effect change at a higher level for her community.
Despite losing both of these races, she didn’t give up. Her resilience in the face of adversity showed how deeply she believed in our ability to be better as a nation. She finally earned her seat in the Texas Senate in 1966, the first African American woman elected to that body.
“What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise.” – Barbara Jordan
Once elected, Jordan hit the ground running, championing Black, Brown, and working Texans. One of her greatest achievements during her tenure in the State Senate was passing legislation to give millions of Texas farmworkers a living wage. She was so well respected by her colleagues that in 1972 they elected her President Pro Tem.
Jordan went on to run for Congress, winning decisively and becoming the first African American woman from the south to be elected to the ‘people’s house’. She continued to pour her heart into her work, serving Texans well on the House Judiciary Committee, where she played a critical role in the impeachment of Richard Nixon. Her historic career was honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom among countless other accolades.
Barbara Jordan’s grace and grit is a testament to the fighting spirit that makes our state special. Over the last year, we’ve seen Texas Republicans mount countless attacks on the freedoms Jordan fought so hard to protect. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that we honor her legacy by continuing her fight for justice.
Texas women have and continue to be at the forefront of the fight for progress in our state. We stand on the shoulders of leaders like Barbara Jordan who came before us. Now it’s up to us to be the next generation of change in our state.