The Savannah Tribune Salutes Abigail Jordan

Abigail Jordan
Abigail Jordan

In observance of Women’s History Month, The

Savannah Tribune is reprinting from an article published in The University of Georgia’ s College of Education Online Newsletter. The article, written by Jason Peevy, tells the story of Dr. Abigail Jordan, a doctoral graduate of the institution, and a retired educator who resides in Savannah. The article highlights her encounters with racism as a child, and her fight for the erection of the African Anerican Family Monument downtown.

And now the article from the The University of Georgia’ s College of Education Online Newsletter.

“Her grandfather came to America on a slave ship. Her mother was nearly killed trying to vote. The Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in her family’s yard. And she endured unpleasant confrontations with students and faculty while studying at UGA.

All of this, however, was merely a prelude to COE alumna Abigail Jordan’s greatest challenge — driving the movement to erect a monument to slaves in Savannah, even contributing more than $100,000 of her own money to the project.

Family history has played a vital role in Jordan’s life, which has been dominated by two themes — education and a struggle for equality.

In the 1800s Jordan’s maternal grandfather “played dead” and escaped after coming to the country on a slave ship.

Slavery was abolished when her grandfather was 12, but the runaway didn’t know until a white woman took him in, later making arrangements for him to receive an education.

Jordan never met her grandfather, but said, “Slavery is something I heard about in my home almost every day.”

Jordan’s mother, who earned the equivalent of a two-year degree, served as a role model.

As a child, Jordan (EdD ’80) accompanied her mother to the Wilcox County Courthouse. “She knew they would not let her vote but she went anyway.

They turned her away, and as we left a white man stuck his foot out. My mother had the presence of mind to release my hand before she fell all the way down those marble steps. I was terrified and thought my mother was dead.”

The Ku Klux Klan retaliated with a cross

African American Monument
African American Monument
burning in their yard, and the family fled to Savannah. Jordan was sent to a private high school in Albany and graduated from Albany State University with a degree in education.

She earned a master’s in education at Atlanta University, and after marrying and having a child of her own, returned to Savannah and worked for a federally funded education program on reading at Savannah State University.

It was her work with reading programs that led her to visit a class at UGA. When a UGA professor challenged Jordan to pursue a doctorate, she accepted. “I wanted him to know I was qualified,” she said.

She commuted most days from Savannah to Athens and said fellow students tried to prevent her from parking on campus. When she complained to UGA President Fred Davison, he gave up his parking space for Jordan.

After graduating in 1980 Jordan continued her work at Savannah State and became a writer for the Savannah Morning News. In 1991 Jordan was challenged again, this time by a group of black tourists who asked her why there wasn’t a monument to blacks in the city. She then spearheaded a committee and petitioned the city to erect a memorial, setting off a decade of wrangling and debate — first over location, then appearance and finally the inscription. “My willingness

to be confrontational has been a problem all my life,” Jordan said. “I’ll go to great lengths. I don’t enjoy fighting and arguing for what is right, but if I have to, I will.” In July 2002, the statue was erected at Savannah’s historic riverfront, the port of entry for most slaves arriving in Georgia. The sevenfoot bronze statue — designed by Dorothy Spradley (MFA ’76) — depicts a contemporary family in broken shackles. Today, Jordan continues seeking funds to cover the remaining cost of the monument and is writing a documentary about the project. “My mother would be proud of me … even though what I went through was nothing compared to what she endured,” Jordan said. “We have so much ground to cover. We have to do so much more than any other race to prove ourselves. That’s why I keep fighting.”

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