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Thu, 07.09.1936

One of New York’s finest, June Jordan

June Jordan

June Jordan was born on this date in 1936. She was a Black writer and educator.

Born in Harlem, New York, Jordan was the daughter of Granville and Mildred Jordan, Jamaican citizens.  Her father was a night shift postal worker and her mother was a nurse. When she was five, the family moved to the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. During her high school years, she was "completely immersed in a white universe" while a student at Milwood High School and Northfield School for girls in Massachusetts.  It was at Northfield that Jordan "discovered her poetic voice." Her home circumstances were a source of conflict and anguish because of her father's physical abuse and her mother's denial.

During these times as a young girl, Jordan's father taught her how to box; she has been fighting ever since. This environment resulted in Jordan's writing extensively about her parents and their positive and negative influences. In 1953, Jordan enrolled at Barnard College. Two years later, she married Michael Meyer, a white student.  While her husband completed graduate studies at the University of Chicago, Jordan continued her studies there until 1956 when she went to Barnard College, where she remained for a year. In 1958, she gave birth to her only child, Christopher David Meyer.

It was especially difficult to be in an interracial marriage in the 1950s because of societal attitudes and laws.  In 1965, Jordan's marriage ended in divorce and Jordan faced the trials of being a single, working mother and forming her identity.  Much of this challenge came forth in her writings. Her books of poetry include "Things That I Do in the Dark" (1977), "Passion" (1980), "Living Room" (1985), and "Naming Our Destiny: New and Selected Poems" (1989). Other published poems are "Kissing God Goodbye: Poems, 1991-1997" (Anchor Books, 1997) and "Haruko/Love Poems" (1994). She is also the author of children's books, plays, a novel and "Technical Difficulties" (1994), "Poetry for the People: A Blueprint for the Revolution" (1995), a guide to writing, teaching, and publishing poetry.

Her collections of political essays include "Affirmative Acts: Political Essays" (1998). Basic Books published her memoir, "Soldier: A Poet's Childhood," in 2000. Jordan has received a Rockefeller Foundation grant, the National Association of Black Journalists Award, and fellowships from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.  She taught at the University of California, Berkeley, where she founded Poetry for the People.  June Jordan died of breast cancer on June 14, 2002, in Berkeley, California.

Reference:
Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

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