Jordan, June

Jordan, June
▪ 2003

      American writer, political activist, and scholar (b. July 9, 1936, Harlem, N.Y.—d. June 14, 2002, Berkeley, Calif.), tirelessly spoke out against the injustices and oppressions suffered by the socially marginalized. During her career she authored more than two dozen books that included volumes of poetry, essay collections, and novels, which made her one of the most prolific African American writers in history. Though Jordan credited her father with having fostered within her a love of literature, their relationship was strained by his violent temper. She won a scholarship to study at the Northfield School for Girls (now the coeducational Northfield–Mount Hermon School) in Massachusetts and later returned to New York City in order to attend Barnard College. She became active on the political and literary scenes during the late 1960s, advocating for women, the poor, and the disenfranchised. Jordan began teaching at the City Colleges of New York in 1966. Her first book, Who Look at Me (1969), was a children's book, and it was followed by the poetry collection Some Changes (1971). Civil Wars (1981), a collection of political essays, also provided autobiographical material that chronicled her troubled interracial marriage, her experience as a mother, and her devotion to the black community. Other notable works by Jordan included the novel His Own Where (1971) and the essay collections On Call (1985) and Technical Difficulties: African-American Notes on the State of the Union (1992). She was the recipient of the New York Council of the Humanities Award in 1977 and was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the National Black Writers' Conference in 1998. Jordan was a professor of African-American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1989. Some of Us Did Not Die, a collection of essays, was published posthumously.

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▪ American author
married name  June Meyer 
born July 9, 1936, New York, New York, U.S.
died June 14, 2002, Berkeley, California

      African American author who investigated both social and personal concerns through poetry, essays, and drama.

      Jordan grew up in the New York City borough of Brooklyn and attended Barnard College (1953–55, 1956–57) and the University of Chicago (1955–56). Beginning in 1967 she taught English and literature; she later taught African American studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She fought for the inclusion of black studies and third-world studies in university curricula and advocated acceptance of Black English. With architect R. Buckminster Fuller she created a plan for the architectural redesign of Harlem in New York City. Her first poetry collection, Who Look at Me, appeared in 1969; among her subsequent collections of poems were Things That I Do in the Dark (1977), Living Room (1985), Naming Our Destiny (1989), Haruko/Love Poetry (1993), and Kissing God Goodbye: Poems 1991–1996 (1997).

      In the 1970s Jordan wrote books for children and young adults, including the novel His Own Where (1971) and the biography Fannie Lou Hamer (1972). As a journalist and poet Jordan wrote about feminism, freedom of choice, and the struggle against racism. Her essays are collected in the books Civil Wars (1981), On Call (1985), Technical Difficulties: African-American Notes on the State of the Union (1992), and June Jordan's Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint (1995). In the 1980s her play The Issue (directed by Ntozake Shange (Shange, Ntozake)) and the musical Bang Bang Uber Alles, for which she wrote the libretto, were performed. She later wrote the lyrics and libretto for I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (1995). Jordan's autobiography, Soldier: A Poet's Childhood, was published in 2000.

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