June Meyer Jordan, writer, editor, poet, educator, environmental and social activist, was the only child of Granville Ivanhoe and Mildred Maude Fischer Jordan who were Jamaican immigrants. June was born in Harlem on July 9, 1936. June’s father worked as a night shift postal clerk and her mother was a part-time private-duty nurse. The family lived in Harlem until June was six years old, when they moved to the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. June’s father subjected her to serious physical abuse that continued throughout her childhood. It was in this terrifying environment of bullying and severe beatings, that seven year old June found solace in the written word and began writing poetry. In her memoir, Soldier, a Poet’s Childhood, she credited her father’s treatment with influencing her to write and introducing her to literature.
June Jordan attended Milwood High School in Brooklyn where she was the only African-American out of three-thousand students. She transferred and attended a religious private high school, Northfield School for Girls in Massachusetts where she graduated in the spring of 1953. In the fall of the same year, she returned to Brooklyn and enrolled at Barnard College. In her second year of college, nineteen year old June met and later married Michael Meyer, a white student from Columbia University. She withdrew from college to follow her new husband to the University of Chicago where he was a graduate student of anthropology. In 1958, June gave birth to their son, Christopher David Meyer. Her marriage to Michael Meyer ended in divorce after eleven and a half years. As a single parent, Jordan devoted her life to writing poetry, studying, and doing free-lance journalism to support her son and herself.
In the 1960s Jordan also became a Civil Rights activist, joining busloads of “Freedom Riders” to Baltimore as they traveled demanding enforcement of Supreme Court decisions on desegregation. In 1963, Jordan worked as a production assistant for “The Cool World,” a documentary film