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COLLECTION Identifier: Vt-155

Videotape collection of June Jordan, 1976-2002


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


  • Creation: 1976-2002


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. June Jordan videotapes are open for research with some restrictions. 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 Copyright in unpublished material created by June Jordan is held by the Jordan Literary Trust until its termination and upon its termination, by Jordan's heir.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later, all rights, titles and interest, including copyright and all extensions and renewals thereof, in and to the unpublished work, will transfer to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for Schlesinger Library.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 in other videotapes 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. No material may be copied for deposit in other libraries. No material may be reproduced on the internet.


153 videotapes

The bulk of the videotapes feature June Jordan either as the sole speaker or interviewee, on a panel with others, or co-teaching a class.

Series I, TELEVISION APPEARANCES, 1976-2000 (#1-19), includes unedited material and television appearances by June Jordan.

Series II, SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS, POETRY READINGS, AND PERFORMANCES, 1985-2001 (#20-53), includes recordings of June Jordan reading poetry and essays, giving speeches, introducing readers, and in a collaborative musical performance.

Series III, POETRY FOR THE PEOPLE,1992-2002 (#54-147), contains recordings of lectures by June Jordan, visiting poets, and student-teacher poets; and public events related to her Poetry for the People courses at the University of California, Berkeley.

Subseries A, African-American Studies 156AC/Poetry for the People/Poetry for the People, 1992-2002 (#54-114), contains material that specifically relates to the larger class, mostly lectures.

Subseries B, African-American Studies 158A&B/Poetry for the People, 1996-2001 (#115-147), contains footage of the smaller student-teacher poet class. Includes footage of community events spearheaded by class participants.

Series IV, MISCELLANEOUS, 1985-1999 (#148-153), contains video press kits, a film tribute to June Jordan, recordings of other performers reciting Jordan's poems, and other items.


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 four series, with Series III. further organized into two subseries. Within each series and subseries, videotapes are organized chronologically by date. Those tapes without dates are listed alphabetically at the end of each series or subseries. Tapes are in VHS format, unless otherwise noted. Titles are derived from the tape labels and opening credits.

  1. Series I. TELEVISION APPEARANCES, 1976-2000 (#1-19)
  3. Series III. POETRY FOR THE PEOPLE, 1992-2002 (#54-147)
  4. Series IV. MISCELLANEOUS, 1985-1999 (#148-153)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2003-M40, 2003-M41

These videotapes 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; see and Papers of June Jordan, 1936-2002 (MC 513) and Audio collection of June Jordan, 1970-2000 (T-331).

Processing Information

Processed: May 2009

By: Melissa Dollman

Jordan, June, 1936-2002. Videotape collection of June Jordan, 1976-2002: 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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