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Barbara Jordan Collection

Identifier: MSS 0080

Scope and Contents

The Barbara Jordan collection contains materials that highlights the life and legacy of Jordan’s work and political career. This collection, which dates from 1963 to 2011, consists of photographs, programs, newspaper clippings, flyers and various souvenir and memorabilia materials.


  • 1963 - 2011

Language of Materials

All materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Barbara Jordan Collection must be obtained from the African American Library at the Gregory School or the appropriate copyright holder.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Barbara Charline Jordan (1936–1996), a lawyer, politician, and an educator, was the first African American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas and the first African American woman from the South to be elected to Congress.

Barbara Jordan was born in Houston, Texas, to Benjamin and Arlyne (Patten) Jordan, the youngest of three daughters she grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward. Benjamin was a Tuskegee Institute graduate and worked as warehouse clerk and Baptist minister. Arlyne was a skilled public speaker. Barbara attended Houston public schools graduating from Phyllis Wheatley High School in 1952, and earned a Bachelor’s degree from Texas Southern University in 1956. She later graduated from Boston University law and was admitted to the Texas and Massachusetts bars. She taught at Tuskegee Institute for a year before returning to Houston to open a law a practice.

She was drawn into politics during the 1960 John F. Kennedy presidential campaign by managing a get-out-the-vote program to register Houston’s black voters. During the 1960s, she unsuccessfully ran for state office twice, until the 1967 redistricting created an electorate of minority voters, which helped her to secure the Texas Senate seat. This feat made her the first black state senator elected since 1883. She quickly gained respect as an effective legislator who pushed bills including establishing the state’s first minimum wage law, antidiscrimination clauses in business contracts and the Texas Fair Employment Practices Commission. These achievements lead to her to be appointment as president pro tempore of the Texas Senate, making her the first black woman in America to preside over a legislative body.

In 1973, Jordan along with Andrew Young of Georgia became the first African Americans seated in U.S. House of Representative seat from the deep south in the 20th Century. The oration skills she refined during college assisted her to gain national recognition during the Water Gate scandal with opening remarks that rocked the committee. “My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total,” Jordan said. “I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.” She verbalized her reasons for President Richard Nixon’s impeachment with remarks that presented her preference in the public perception.

Jordan was reelected in 1974 and 1976, serving three terms in Congress. She supported liberal measures for improved education in public school and student loans, and the school lunch programs. After her last congressional term, she was appointed to the Lyndon B. Johnson Chair in National Policy at the Johnson School of Public Affairs on the University of Texas at Austin campus. In 1988, she delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention Speech. She continued to give speeches and teach at the university but physical health issues prevented her from returning to the political stage. In her last political act, she served as the chair of the Commission on Immigration Reform testifying for rights for children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants.

Jordan suffered from multiple sclerosis and leukemia, and ultimately died of pneumonia on January 17, 1996. Barbara Jordan is buried in the state cemetery in Austin.

Taken from Handbook of Texas Online, Mark Odintz, "Jordan, Barbara Charline."B. Gates, Henry Louis, and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. 2008. The African American National biography. New York: Oxford University Press.


0.5 Linear Feet (2)


The collection is arranged in three series by format.

Series I Printed Materials

Series II Photographs

Series III Oversized

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by: Rosemary McGowan in July 2014.

Processing Information

Processed by: Sheena Wilson, November 2017

MSS 0080 Barbara Jordan Collection
An Inventory of her Records at The African American Library at the Gregory School, Houston Public Library
Sheena Wilson
November 21, 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the African American History Research Center Repository


African American History Research Center
Houston Public Library
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
Houston History Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002