Interview with Vernon E. Jordan, March 17, 1964

Project: Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Vernon Jordan (1935- ) is an African American lawyer who was a civil rights leader and political advisor. Born in Atlanta, Georgia he graduated from DePauw University in Green Castle, Indiana in 1957 and received his J.D. from the Howard University School of Law in 1960. Upon moving back to Atlanta to work with the civil rights movement, in 1961 Jordan helped organize the integration of the University of Georgia. He has served as the Georgia field secretary for the NAACP, Director of the Voter Education Project for the Southern Regional Council from 1964-1968, head of the United Negro College Fund, and was the Executive Director of the National Urban League from 1971 to 1981. In 1981 Jordan was shot during a failed assassination attempt. Jordan also served as a delegate to President Lyndon B. Johnson's White House Conference on Civil Rights and served as an advisor to President William Jefferson Clinton. He was known for creating links between the Nixon and the Carter administrations and the black community. In this interview, Vernon Jordan describes his early life. He recalls attending segregated David T. Howard High School in Atlanta where a man named Paul Lawrence came to speak with students about the National Services Scholarship Fund. Jordan describes after meeting Mr. Lawrence becoming interested in attending Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He describes the disappointment he and other students felt when they were not permitted to take the college entrance exams the following day and the eventual realization that he would not have been academically prepared to pass the exam if he had taken it. Jordan then describes his experience at Depauw University in Greencastle, Indiana as the only African American student in a class of 400. He recalls the segregated downtown, limited social interactions, and his eventual acceptance by the academic community. Jordan also describes his struggles at Depauw academically including the additional studying to catch up and the growing awareness that his Southern segregated education had been inadequate in preparing him for college. In addition Jordan discusses the beginning of his involvement with the civil rights movement and attending school at Howard University. He considers the pressure put on the African Americans to pursue a career that will advance the African American community and the sense of obligation they may feel. Jordan continues with a discussion of African American identity, the role of black spirituals in American culture, and discusses assimilating into white culture. He describes the effect of reconstruction in the South after the Civil War and the role of Lincoln in the emancipation of the slaves. Jordan discusses African American leadership and his perceptions of leadership within the Atlanta Summer Leadership Conference. In addition, Jordan describes what he feels are the goals of the civil rights movement.

Interview Accession

2003oh025_rpwcr014

Interviewee Name

Vernon E. Jordan

Interviewer Name

Robert Penn Warren

Interview Date

1964-03-17

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Interview Usage

Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Jordan, Vernon E. Interview by Robert Penn Warren. 17 Mar. 1964. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Jordan, V.E. (1964, March 17). Interview by R. P. Warren. Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Jordan, Vernon E., interview by Robert Penn Warren. March 17, 1964, Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt7fbg2h7k5n