AUSTIN (KXAN) — “Barbara Jordan: Texas Legend, American Hero.”
The 9th annual exhibit at the Texas State Capitol reads this phrase. Those are but two of many words people would use to describe her.
“She’s a civil rights activist, social justice activist, racial integration activist, and voting rights activist,” said Peniel E. Joseph, the Barbara Jordan chair in ethics and political values at the University of Texas at Austin. She was “passionate about social justice, she was an educator.”
Many may recognize her name just by being in town and seeing all the things named after her — Barbara Jordan Elementary School, Barbara Jordan Boulevard, and Barbara Jordan Terminal.
But who was she?
She became a number of different firsts: She’s the first African-American person elected to the Texas Senate in 1966 since Reconstruction after the Civil War, she’s the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress in 1972… She’s the first African-American person to give a keynote speech at any major party convention.Joseph
Life on display
The timing is appropriate for the Barbara Jordan Freedom Foundation to reflect on the woman honored in its name.
This year marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment’s passage, that guaranteed and protects women’s constitutional right to vote.
“This is a perfect storm,” Joseph said. “2020 is a national election. We’re gonna local elections as well… Barbara Jordan’s legacy is really a legacy of advocating that every citizen not only has the right to vote but should be an active citizen,” Joseph said.
It is also Black History Month and years ago the 82nd Legislative decreed that during February, an exhibit would honor Jordan along with a week dedicated to her. As part of that running legislation, the foundation held a preview event for the interactive exhibit Tuesday morning at the Texas Capitol during the week-long celebration. It is located at the ground floor rotunda, north-central gallery.
“This whole exhibit is bridging and a reintroduction to Barbara Jordan’s legacy to a whole new generation,” Joseph said.
The foundation first displayed the exhibit on Saturday. It is meant to be a “tribute” to Jordan’s life highlighting the significant impact she made on:
- Civil rights legislation
- Social justice
- Female empowerment
The foundation created the exhibit’s audio and visual displays from the archive housed at Texas Southern University, Barbara Jordan’s alma mater with additional contributions from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, where she was a professor for 17 years. It will remain open to the public until Feb. 22.
The LBJ school will host several additional events throughout the week.