A Woman to Know: Barbara Jordan

She always did sound like God. — Molly Ivins

(image via Library of Congress)

At the 1976 Democratic National Convention in Madison Square Garden, Barbara Jordan took to the podium.

"There is something different about tonight," the Texas representative said in her legendarily booming voice. "There is something special about tonight. What is different? What is special? I, Barbara Jordan, am a keynote speaker." That night, she became the first African-American woman to deliver a major party convention's keynote address.

And throughout her political career, Barbara Jordan's voice echoed. Multiple people described it as "God-like" ("like the heavens have opened up," one man said) and to many she represented a new phase in American leadership: one that pushed voices like hers to the podium.

At her funeral in 1996, journalist Bill Moyers reflected on the forty billion new galaxies that had recently been discovered. And in that vast heaven is where Barbara belonged, he said: "now at last, she has an amplifying system equal to that voice."

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