June Jordan

June Jordan (Book cover)

June Jordan (1936–2002), born in Harlem and raised in Brooklyn, was an activist, poet, children’s author, and professor. After graduating from Barnard College, she began teaching in higher education—City College of New York, Yale University, Sarah Lawrence College, the State University of New York at Stony Brook (she directed The Poetry Center)—ultimately teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, as professor of African-American Studies. At Berkeley she founded a poetry program, Poetry for the People.

June wrote more than twenty-five major works of essays, fiction, and poetry and also wrote several books for children. She wrote lyrics for operas and for other musicals, plays, and musicians. As a journalist, she was published in newspapers and magazines and was a columnist for the Progressive. As an orator, she electrified audiences and published many of her speeches in her collections of essays.

During her career, June won many grants, fellowships, and awards, including a Rockefeller grant for creative writing (1969–70), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1982), the Achievement Award for International Reporting from the National Association of Black Journalists (1984), the PEN Center USA West Freedom to Write Award (1991), and a congressional citation for her contributions to literature, the progressive movement, and the civil rights movement. 

Her 1972 publication, Dry Victories, addresses the problems that African Americans faced during the period of Reconstruction following the end of the Civil War, and her poetry includes “Poem about My Rights” and “Poem for Guatemala.”

June died on June 14, 2002, at her home in Berkeley, after a ten-year battle with breast cancer.

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