Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder


        Our book is called Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder which was written by Jordan herself (due to her speeches) and edited by Max Sherman. Jordan was described as a successful African American woman who served in the House of Representatives, Texas Senate, and had “the Voice of God.” Jordan had lived by a simple statement: “Ethical behavior means being honest, telling the truth, and doing what you said you would do.” This book highlights the speeches that highlighted many of the values that Jordan had lived by in her statement. The editor Max Sherman knew Jordan personally as they had both worked in the Texas Senate and at UT Austin. Sherman hoped that this book of Jordan’s words or famous speeches would speak to a nation at important times. The famous speeches that are included in this book are “Erosion of Civil Liberties,” “The Constitutional Basis for Impeachment,” keynote addresses to the Democratic National Conventions in 1976 and 1992, testimony in the US Congress on the opposition of the nomination of Robert Bork and on immigration reform, two different speeches at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1978 and 1984, and her acceptance speech while receiving the Sylvanus Thayer award in 1995. Overall, the speeches in this text represent themes of ethics, democratic values, and civil liberties.


Biographical Sketch

        Barbara Jordan, the author of Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder, was a successful and humble US congressional representative from Texas and was the first African American congresswoman to come from the deep south.  Jordan was born on February 21, 1936 in what many call a poor or developing neighborhood in Houston, Texas. Jordan’s father was a Baptist minister, while her mother was a housewife and church teacher. While attending the segregated Phyllis Wheatley High School, Jordan listened to a career day speech by a African American lawyer named Edith Sampson. By listening to Sampson’s speech, Jordan was inspired to become a lawyer by working hard and dedicating the time to her academics. As a result of the hard work and dedication, Jordan later landed at a very prestigious school named Texas Southern University.

        Furthermore, Jordan continued to excel and strive for greatness in the academic field, as she continued her studies at Boston University Law School.  Even though there was racial tension, Jordan continued to persevere and quickly graduated Boston with a law degree, where she happened to be one of the two African American women in her class. Jordan quickly became active in politics and eventually campaigned for a Democratic presidential ticket of John F. Kennedy and Texan Lyndon B. Johnson.  She spent over two years learning about politics and seeking her first bid for public office in the Texas Legislature. Due to Jordan’s academic excellence and public awareness, many thought Jordan was welcomed warmly and treated fairly, however, Jordan struggled quite a bit early in the Texas legislature.  In result, she continued to act as an outstanding citizen and official, and later won over many constituents and representatives.

       To continue, Jordan shined and stood out in the Texas legislature, and later improved the lives of her constituents by helping through the states first law on minimum wage.  Although Jordan’s early life started off quite rough, she battled and showed persistence by fighting adversity and following her dreams. Jordan had a wide variety of dreams and one of those big bucket list dreams was to eventually hold a position as the president pro tempore of the state senate.  In 1972, one of Jordan’s biggest dreams came true when she finally was elected and became the first African American woman to hold this post. Throughout her life, Jordan never let others tell her she wasn’t good enough or capable of doing something. She is a perfect representation of what all kids should strive to be.

       Lastly, her hard work, dedication, and grit never let up and she accomplished many goals that some people believed were impossible for a black woman to do.  In 1992, Jordan was awarded the Spingarn Medal. This medal is only awarded annually by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for outstanding achievement by an African American.  A few years later, Jordan was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is-along with the comparable Congressional Gold Medal- the highest civilian award of the United States.  Overall, Jordan is without a doubt a role model to all citizens across the globe and is a name that American history will never forget.


Historical Context

        Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder was published and edited by Max Sherman in 2007. Even though the majority of the book is from Jordan’s speeches, Sherman had written that he “awoke with a clear sense of a message from Barbara Jordan: Max, you have read my speeches. You teach my course on “Ethics and Political Values.” You have spoken on my behalf many times. You are completing our book based on the ethics course. In the election seasons of this new century, I have something to say. Get off your duff and help me say it (Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder, Preface).”Jordan had given Sherman this message in August 2004 and wanted to say it through him in the next election season (2008). When this book had been revealed in 2007, the United States was going through an election season for a new president for 2008. In the 2008 election season, Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden were running against Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin. Ultimately, Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden won, making history as the first African American president. I believe that Sherman had published this book at the right time in history because of a certain speech that Jordan had made in the past. For example, in Jordan’s keynote address at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, she had stated that the Democratic party itself could be a supporter for change. By publishing Jordan’s speeches at that certain time in history that she had wanted him to, I believed that Sherman had made a bigger impact on the 2008 election season than the world had expected him to.



      Our author Barbara Jordan has been compared to Shirley Chisholm. Chisholm was similar to Jordan in many ways. One way that she was similar to Jordan was through their shared interest of politics. While Jordan had been the first African American female elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1972, Chisholm had been elected to Congress as the first African American in 1968. Another way that Chisholm was similar to Jordan was through their determination to change politics which can be seen in both Jordan’s and Chisholm’s texts. For example, in Chisholm’s book Unbought and Unbossed, Chisholm’s 1972 presidential campaign seemed to help “pave the way for the election of Barack Obama (xiv, Chisholm).” This text is compared to Jordan’s text where she states that the Democratic party itself could be a supporter for change when the text itself was released in the 2008 election year of Barack Obama. Jordan’s statement when she believes that the Democratic party itself could be a supporter for change is similar to when Chisholm stated that she wanted to be remembered as a woman who dared to be a catalyst of change. Overall, I do believe that Jordan and Chisholm have many similarities between each other ranging from their determination and drive of politics to their spoken words that express how they could both be an example of a catalyst of change.



        When reading the reviews of our text, they all seemed to be in a positive light. In these reviews, readers commented from two to ten years ago about how the text had inspired them to want to make a difference in their society. Other readers also commented that Jordan was a “woman of highest integrity” and “an amazing speaker.” Although the text was published over ten years ago, the reviews at that time are no different than the reviews from two years ago. One reason for this is that at the time the text was published was during the 2008 presidential election, where Barack Obama served for eight years. At that monumental moment in history, the text had inspired others to want to look for justice in politics and have the Democratic party serve as a catalyst of change. In relation to the text’s inspiration, readers have also commented that she was “truly an inspirational women who focused on the truth as opposed to getting lost in the politics of the era.” Another reason is that my partner and I believed the text inspired society to want to take action for politics and make a difference in society. For example, readers commented that although “her speeches were delivered over 30 years but they can speak volumes about the problems we face today.” Another example is when a reader had claimed that “every young man and woman “coming into his/her own” should read this wonderful book. Barbara Jordan (book) is not about race, gender, special interests and other discriminating elements. The book is a wonderful insight into the eloquent and beautiful woman who rose above all to inspire men and women or all races, interests, religions and beliefs in pursuit of truth and right.” After reading this book, I had a better understanding of what a woman in politics can do and how difficult it could be to get that point. After reading this book, my partner had felt he gained my information about Jordan herself as he had not heard about her before. Overall, my partner and I do believe that the reviews of this text represent the themes of the book and book itself.


Works Cited

“Barbara Jordan.”, A&E Networks Television, 19 Jan. 2018,          

“Barbara Jordan.” IMDb,,

Jordan, Barbara. “Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder.” Barnes & Noble,

Jordan, Barbara. “Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder.”ThriftBooks, Thrift Books,

Jordan, Barbara, and Max R. Sherman. Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder.    University of Texas Press, 2007

Michals, Debra. “Shirley Chisholm.” National Women’s History Museum, 2015,

Nagourney, Adam. “Obama Wins Election.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Nov. 2008,

Nichols, John. “Shirley Chisholm Made the Democratic Party of Today Possible.” The Nation, 7 June 2016,

Staff, “Barack Obama Elected as America’s First Black President.”, A+E Networks, 2012,

Staff, “Shirley Chisholm.”, A+E Networks, 2009,

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Barbara Jordan.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 14 Feb. 2018,

“Women’s History Month Heroes: Barbara Jordan.” GLSEN,