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COLLECTION Identifier: T-331: Phon-38: CD-13

Audio collection of June Jordan, 1970-2000


The audio collection of June Jordan, poet, author, activist, and professor.


  • Creation: 1970-2000


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. June Jordan audiotapes are open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual materials.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in unpublished material created by June Jordan is held by the Jordan Literary Trust until its termination and upon its termination, by Jordan's heir. Upon the death of Jordan's heir or the termination of the Jordan Literary Trust, whichever occurs later, all rights, titles and interest, including copyright and all extensions and renewals thereof, in and to the unpublished work, will transfer to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for Schlesinger Library. Copyright in June Jordan's published work is outside the scope of this agreement. Copyright of other audiotapes in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Tapes may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures. Permission to copy some restricted material must be sought in writing from the Jordan Literary Trust until its termination and after its termination from Jordan's heir separately from permission for access and permission to quote. No material may be copied for deposit in other libraries. No material may be reproduced on the internet.


154 audiotapes
2 phonograph records
2 compact discs

The bulk of the audiotapes feature June Jordan either as the sole speaker or interviewee, on a panel with others, or co-teaching a class. There are a few audiotapes featuring people in Jordan's life who are made reference to in the papers of June Jordan. For related papers, see the finding aid for the June Jordan papers, MC 513. For related videotapes, see the finding aid for the June Jordan videotape collection, Vt-155.

Series I, RADIO APPEARANCES AND INTERVIEWS,1970-2000 (#1-61), includes unedited material and recordings supplied by the individual stations, of radio appearances and interviews with June Jordan or individuals with whom Jordan worked closely, or had a significant personal relationship. Informal interviews by Jordan include those conducted with people in Nicaragua regarding women's rights, general conditions, and the Sandinista Revolution; Jordan with Buckminster Fuller; and others.

Series II, SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS, POETRY READINGS, AND MUSICAL PERFORMANCES/REHEARSALS,1973-1999 (#62-154), includes recordings of June Jordan reading poetry and essays, giving speeches, introducing readers, and in collaborative musical performance or rehearsal. This section also includes: examples of other performers reciting Jordan's poems, a few speaking engagements by individuals with whom Jordan worked closely, or had a significant personal relationship, and other items.

Series III, POETRY FOR THE PEOPLE,1991-2000 (#155-159), contains recordings of lectures by June Jordan and student-teacher poets, and public events related to her Poetry for the People courses at the University of California, Berkeley.


Award-winning author, poet, and social and political activist, June Jordan was born on July 9, 1936, in Harlem, New York, to Granville Ivanhoe Jordan and Mildred Fisher Jordan, both immigrants from Jamaica. The family lived in Harlem for the first five years of Jordan's life. Then, hoping that their daughter would receive a better education, the family moved from Harlem to Bedford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood of Brooklyn. Jordan attended public schools in Brooklyn, until 1950, when she entered the Northfield School for Girls, a Protestant finishing school in Massachusetts. She graduated from Northfield in 1953 at age sixteen; and a short time after entering Barnard College, she changed her major from music to English. As an undergraduate at Barnard (1953-1955), she met Michael Meyer, a white student at Columbia University. The couple married in 1955 and moved to Chicago, where Meyer pursued graduate studies in anthropology at the University of Chicago. Jordan enrolled in the University of Chicago but within a year returned to New York and re-entered Barnard for a semester. She withdrew following the birth of her son (and only child), Christopher David, in 1958. She later enrolled in Hunter College (1962), but left the college before completing her degree. While Jordan's long-distance marriage continued for several years, the couple filed for divorce in 1964. Dedicated to urban development, in 1964 she collaborated with R. Buckminster Fuller on an architectural re-design of Harlem. She also worked as a research associate and writer for the Mobilization for Youth, Inc., on the lower East Side of Manhattan.

Initially, Jordan worked as a freelance writer to supplement her income. In the late 1960s, she wrote both fiction and nonfiction, and began reading her poetry at paid engagements arranged by the American Academy of Poets. At the same time, Jordan worked as a lecturer and adjunct faculty member at several institutions, including Connecticut College (1968), and the City College of New York. She also served as writer-participant for the Teachers-Writers Collaborative Program, Columbia University. With Fuller's support, Jordan received an award for creative writing from the Rockefeller Foundation (1969), as well as a Prix de Rome in Environmental Design (1970). While she retained an interest in urban planning and development, by the early 1970s Jordan concentrated her efforts more fully on writing and teaching, using her talents to address issues of discrimination based on race and gender, as well other politically controversial issues. Throughout her life Jordan advocated teaching Black English, not only as a means of teaching black children to read, but as a method for African American writers to develop identity and voice. She wrote children's poems and books in Black English, including her first novel, His Own Where. During the same period of her career, she continued adjunct work at various colleges: Sarah Lawrence College (1971-1975), Yale University (1974-1975), and Macalester College (Visiting Poet, 1980), before accepting a tenured position at SUNY Stony Brook (1978-1989). Additionally, she taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (Visiting Professor in African American Studies, 1988). In 1988, she accepted a joint appointment as Professor of African American Studies and Women's Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB).

At UCB, Jordan led an especially popular course in African American studies, "The Teaching and Writing of Poetry," which developed into a program called Poetry for the People. Graduates who completed the course became "student-teachers of Poetry" and conducted workshops at various community groups in the Berkeley area as well as guest lecturing. In the fall of 1995, Jordan collaborated with an Oakland (California) community organization, La Peña Cultural Center, to institute a pilot program with students of Berkeley High School. Their success spawned workshops in area schools, congregations, and correctional facilities. She also collaborated with Janice Mirikitani, San Francisco's poet laureate (2000) and executive director of Glide Memorial Church. In 1995, Poetry for the People published an anthology, June Jordan's Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint.

During her tenure at UCB, Jordan wrote and published prolifically. Her essays appeared regularly in mainstream publications such as Essence and Ms., and she wrote a regular column, "Just Inside the Door," for The Progressive magazine (1989-2001). In the 1980s and 1990s, Jordan's writings continued to address themes of discrimination, equality, and economic and social disparities caused by race and gender; they also highlighted global poverty, religious intolerance, American foreign policy (especially in Nicaragua and the Persian Gulf) and minority rights. An outspoken bisexual, Jordan increasingly championed the rights of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. In the last years of her life, Jordan devoted herself to writing and teaching at UCB; she continued to speak out against injustice until her death from breast cancer in Berkeley, California, in 2002.


The collection is arranged in three series. Within each series, audiotapes are organized chronologically by date. Those tapes without dates are listed alphabetically at the end of each series.

  1. Series I. RADIO APPEARANCES AND INTERVIEWS, 1970-2000 (#1-61)
  3. Series III. POETRY FOR THE PEOPLE, 1991-2000 (#155-159)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2003-M40, 2003-M41.

These audio materials were included with the papers of June Jordan MC 513 that were purchased from the June Jordan Literary Estate in 2003 with the generous assistance of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library. For related papers, see the finding aid for the June Jordan papers, MC 513. For related videotapes, see the finding aid for the June Jordan videotape collection, Vt-155.

Processing Information

Processed: May 2009

By: Melissa Dollman

Jordan, June, 1936-2002. Audio collection of June Jordan, 1970-2000: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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