June Jordan was born in New York City on July 9, 1936 and attended Barnard College. She was an activist, poet, writer, teacher, and prominent figure in the civil rights, feminist, antiwar, and LGBTQ movements of the twentieth century.
Jordan’s numerous books of poetry include The Essential June Jordan (Copper Canyon Press, 2021); We’re On: A June Jordan Reader (Alice James Books, 2017); Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2007); Kissing God Goodbye: Poems, 1991–1997 (Anchor Books, 1997); Naming Our Destiny: New and Selected Poems (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1989); Living Room: New Poems (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1985); Passion: New Poems, 1977–1980 (Beacon Press, 1980); and Things That I Do in the Dark: Selected Poetry (Random House, 1977).
Jordan also authored children’s books, plays, the memoir Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood (Basic/Civitas Books, 2000), and the novel His Own Where (Crowell, 1971), which was nominated for the National Book Award. Her collections of political essays include Affirmative Acts: Political Essays (Anchor Books, 1998) and On Call: Political Essays (South End Press, 1985).
Of Jordan’s career, Toni Morrison writes, “I am talking about a span of forty years of tireless activism coupled with and fueled by flawless art.”
Jordan received a Rockefeller Foundation grant, the National Association of Black Journalists Award, and fellowships from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.
She taught at the University of California, Berkeley, where she founded Poetry for the People. Jordan died of breast cancer on June 14, 2002 in Berkeley, California.