Voices

Civil Rights Icon Vernon Jordan Returns to Cincinnati

Civil Rights leader and former National Underground Railroad Freedom Center advisory board member Vernon Jordan will be returning to Cincinnati this summer for the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Convention. Jordan is scheduled to be the keynote speaker July 16 at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Jordan, now 80, previously served as an advisor to President Bill Clinton.


Vernon Jordan played a big role in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, working with the NAACP in organizing boycotts and expanding membership.  Before long, Jordan’s extraordinary work was noticed and he became director of the Southern Regionals Council’s Education project in 1964, a project that increased the number black voters in the South. In 1971, Jordan became president of the National Urban League.

Harvard University professor and historian of African-American life, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. claims that no one has played a more pivotal role in furthering civil rights in the last half century than Jordan.  Jordan is also a businessman, and at one time served on 10 major corporate boards simultaneously. He holds more than 60 honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the United States. In an interview with Bloomberg, American Express CEO Ken Chenault said that Jordan’s “been able to transform society, go into business, and transform business”   Jordan recalled his emotions during the election of the first African American president, noting that he cried when President Obama was sworn in 2008, "It dawned on me the tears were not my tears. They were the tears of my parents and grandparents. They were the tears of black people that toted cotton and lifted that bale. They were the tears of incredulous belief that a black man had been elected president of the United States.”

The 13-member Ohio Legislative Black Caucus will hold its convention July 15-17 ahead of the NAACP’s national convention downtown.  It will be the first time the convention will be held in Cincinnati since it was founded in 1967.

Trey Melcher

Marketing & Communications intern

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