Barbara Jordan deserves recognition for cultural, political impact


Taheera Washington and Kailyn Hayes / Hilltop Views

The Barbara Jordan exhibit featured a timeline that displays her accomplishments from birth to death. The exhibit was also shown during Barbara Jordan week Feb. 20 to Feb. 24.

The Barbara Jordan Foundation hosted a multimodal exhibit at the Capitol from Feb. 15-22

to celebrate the life of Barbara Jordan, a groundbreaking African-American activist, politician and policymaker worthy of all the praise. She was the first to do so much, yet she’s often undermined in importance when discussing legislation today. 

The exhibit highlighted the ways Jordan was first. She was the first woman elected into the Texas Senate in 1966 and the first black congresswoman to come from the deep south of Houston, Texas from 1972 to 1978. Jordan was also the first African American woman to deliver a keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. She would later deliver another address at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.

Her legacy is rooted in her impact on the Watergate Hearings in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. With her strong, eloquent speech style and confidence in her ideals of justice, Jordan soon became a figure of pride for America’s values rooted in the Constitution and African Americans particularly women. 

Another landmark in Jordan’s portfolio of accomplishments is her short time as state governor. Her colleagues recognized her talent and catapulted her to pro tempore, which allowed her to be Governor for a day. According to the exhibit, the president pro tempore is legally third in succession to the state governor’s office, meaning that Jordan is the only African American woman to preside over the United States Legislature and the first African American to preside over the Texas Legislature. 

For merely only a day, Jordan’s position conveyed a movement to equal representation in office an aspect of government still needing improvement today —since it’s appalling that she’s still the only African American to be state governor. 

Yet, upon visiting the exhibit, it was underwhelming for a woman of Jordan’s stature. The exhibit itself is merely a rotunda with posters about her life spread around as if you were visiting a science fair. This emphasizes the decrease in importance educators are putting on her historical impact, creating a generational gap in who knows Jordan and who doesn’t.

Still, Jordan’s legacy resonates today with an airport terminal named after her, along with a school and street. These namesakes serve as important reminders of her legacy to the communities she was heavily involved in. 

Remembering Jordan is important because of her advocacy for civil rights, gender equality, education and working class. Through legislation, Jordan gifted Texas its first minimum wage law. These efforts still resound today because of the various issues we see today surrounding minimum wage. 

While it’s no easy feat in today’s society, it was certainly more difficult for a black woman to achieve the level of success that Jordan did. Even in her death, Jordan made history by being the first African American person to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery. All in all, Jordan is an influential figure that deserves even more recognition for being a key figure for African Americans.