Barbara Jordan: American Hero by Mary Beth Rogers

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Barbara Jordan

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Barbara Jordan rose from poverty to become the first black woman elected to the United States House of Representatives. Incredibly bright, unfailingly diligent, intensely proud, and resolutely private, Jordan, who had gained public recognition during the Watergate hearings, received the singular honor of being the keynote speaker at both the 1976 and 1992 Democratic Conventions.

Jordan was a staunch believer in the United States Constitution and in a judicial system that, over time, interpreted the Constitution in ways that included her race and gender. Always active in Democratic politics, Jordan surprised and disappointed many people by announcing that after three terms in the House, she was returning to private life. It was speculated both that she was ill and that she was disenchanted with being a rookie member of Congress. There was some truth in both contentions.

Jordan spent the years between 1979, when she left Congress, and 1996, when she died, as a faculty member of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin, where she lived until her death. It was only weeks before she died that it became known that she had suffered for years from multiple sclerosis, a condition that had for many years confined her to a wheel chair but that had in no perceptible way slowed her down.

BARBARA JORDAN: AMERICAN HERO is sensitive and thorough, well researched and skillfully written by someone who knew Jordan for several years but finally came to know her better through her papers than through their mutual association.