June Jordan (July 9, 1936 – June 14, 2002) was an African-American bisexual political activist, writer, poet, and teacher, born in Harlem, New York, to Jamaican immigrants.

Early life

Jordan's father, Granville Ivanhoe Jordan, was a postal clerk, and her mother, Mildred, a nurse. When Jordan was five, the family moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. She was the only black student in her high school. In 1953, Jordan enrolled at Barnard College. There she met a white Columbia University student, Michael Meyer. They married in 1955, and had a son, Christopher. The couple divorced in 1966.


Jordan's first published book, Who Look at Me, appeared in 1969, was a collection of poems for children. Twenty-seven more books followed in her lifetime, one (Some of Us Did Not Die, Collected and New Essays) was in press when she died. Two more have been published posthumously: "Directed By Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan" (2005) and a re-issue of the 1970 poetry collection "SoulScript", edited by Jordan. Her autobiographical Soldier: A Poet's Childhood came out in 2000. She was also an essayist, columnist for The Progressive, novelist, biographer, and librettist for the musical/opera I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, composed by John Adams and produced by Peter Sellars.

Jordan's teaching career began in 1967 at the City College of New York. She founded Poetry for the People at the University of California, Berkeley. She was a full professor in the departments of English, Women Studies, and African American Studies. She also taught at Yale University.

Jordan received numerous honors and awards, including a 1969-1970 Rockefeller grant for creative writing, a Yaddo fellowship in 1979, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1982, and the Achievement Award for International Reporting from the National Association of Black Journalists in 1984. Jordan also won the Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Writers Award from 1995 to 1998. The Ground Breakers-Dream Makers award from The Woman's Foundation in 1994. She has been included in the Who's Who in America since 1984. She received the Chancellor's Distinguished Lectureship from UC Berkeley, and the PEN Center USA West Freedom to Write Award, 1991. These awards just name a few of the honors she has received throughout her lifetime. [1]

Jordan died of breast cancer, at her home in Berkeley, California. The June Jordan School for Equity, formerly Small School for Equity, in San Francisco was named after her by the founding group of students who, through a democratic process of research, debate and voting, chose her over two other activists (Phillip Vera Cruz and Cesar Chavez).

Shortly before her death, she completed Some of Us Did Not Die, her seventh collection of political essays (and 27th book), which was published posthumously. In it she describes how her early marriage to a white student while at Barnard College immersed her in the racial turmoil of America in the 1950s, and set her on the path of social activism.


  • "Bisexuality means I am free and I am as likely to want to love a woman as I am likely to want to love a man, and what about that? Isn’t that what freedom implies?" [2]
  • "If you are free, you are not predictable and you are not controllable. To my mind, that is the keenly positive, politicizing significance of bisexual affirmation... to insist upon the equal validity of all the components of social/sexual complexity." [3]
  • "Does our sexual or racial identity compel an activist intersection with such a horrifying status quo or not? Is it sexual or racial identity that will catapult each of us into creative agency for social change? I would say, I hope so. But also, I do not believe that who you are guarantees anything important about what you choose to mean in the context of others’ lives...." [4]
  • "When we heard about the hippies, the barely more than boys and girls who decided to try something different... we laughed at them. We condemned them, our children, for seeking a different future. We hated them for their flowers, for their love, and for their unmistakable rejection of every hideous, mistaken compromise that we had made throughout our hollow, money-bitten, frightened, adult lives."

""We are the ones we have been waiting for" "Poem for South African Women," in _Passion: New Poems 1977-1980_ (Boston: Beacon Press, 1980)


  • Who Look at Me
  • Soulscript (editor)
  • The Voice of the Children (co-editor)
  • Some Changes
  • His Own Where
  • Dry Victories
  • Fannie Lou Hamer
  • New Days
  • New Life
  • Things That I Do in the Dark
  • Passion
  • Kimako's Story
  • Things That I Do in the Dark: Selected Poems, 1954-1977
  • Civil Wars
  • Living Room
  • On Call
  • Lyrical Campaigns
  • Moving Towards Home
  • Naming Our Destiny
  • Technical Difficulties: African-American Notes on the State of the Union
  • Technical Difficulties: New Political Essays
  • Haruko Love Poems
  • I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky
  • June Jordan's Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint
  • Civil Wars (new edition)
  • Kissing God Goodbye
  • Affirmative Acts
  • Soldier
  • Some of Us Did Not Die
  • Soulscript: A Collection of Classic African American Poetry (editor, reprint)
  • Directed by Desire: The Complete Poems of June Jordan (due out in Fall, 2005)

External links

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