Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) was the first Black person elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first Southern Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.  Jordan was one of three children born to a teacher and a Baptist minister in Houston’s Fifth Ward. She majored in political science and history at Texas Southern University, a historically Black institution, because she wasn’t allowed to attend the University of Texas at Austin due to segregation. She graduated in 1956, and would go on to graduate from Yale Law in 1959. After teaching at Tuskegee Institute for a year, she returned to Houston to practice law in the private sector.

After a couple of unsuccessful runs for the Texas House, Jordan won a seat in the Texas State Senate in 1966. This made her the first Black senator of that state since 1883 and the first Black woman to serve. She was re-elected to a full term in 1968 and served until 1972. While there, she sponsored or co-sponsored around seventy bills.

In 1972, Jordan was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where she served on the House Judiciary Committee. As a congresswoman, she sponsored or co-sponsored over 300 bills or resolutions during her tenure. She became the first African American woman to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 by President Bill Clinton.


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