May 29, 2012


jordan and davis
Top: Barbara Jordan
Bottom: Viola Davis

Viola Davis developing Barbara Jordan ('59) biopic

The long-cherished legacy of spearheading alumna Barbara Jordan (’59) will make its next appearance in a big-screen biopic featuring Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis.

Although it is still in the embryonic stages of development, Davis and others involved in the project publicly confirmed production plans in March. The film would be based on Mary Beth Rogers’ Barbara Jordan: American Hero, a biography to which they have already acquired the rights.

The development team includes Paris Barclay as director, Jordan’s husband Julius Tennon (who has teamed up with Davis to produce the film) and Paris Qualles as screenwriter.

In accordance with the biography’s storyline, the film will chronicle Jordan’s then-undreamed-of rise in American politics. She continually overhauled the political scene upon graduating from BU Law. Her political trajectory included becoming the first African-American woman to be elected to the Texas Senate (in 1966) and the first African-American woman from the south to gain a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives (1972) and delivering epoch-making addresses for the 1976 Democratic National Convention and the 1974 House Judiciary Committee on President Nixon’s impeachment—addresses that American Rhetoric rated number five and thirteen, respectively, in its list of Top 100 Speeches. She later gave another keynote address at the 1992 Democratic Convention—after being the first woman to do so at the 1976 gathering—and eventually gained an adjunct professorship of ethics and government at the University of Texas, a school that she had, as an adolescent, been discouraged from attending because it was still segregated at the time.

Jordan died of leukemia—after a long battle with multiple sclerosis—in 1996 at the age of 59, two years after President Clinton awarded her the Medal of Freedom.

Davis most recently starred in The Help, a role for which she was nominated for an academy award.

Check out Barbara Jordan’s slide in BU Law’s Black History Month slideshow.

Reported by Alia Wong


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