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Black Americans have always relied on the oral tradition-storytelling, preaching, and speechmaking-to assert their rights and preserve and pass on their history and culture. In the pulpit, courtroom, or cotton field, they have understood the power of words, distinctively delivered, to educate and inspire. Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. , one of the nation's finest speakers, imbibed this tradition as a young man and has given it his own unique inflection from his work on the civil rights front lines, to the National Urban League, to positions of influence at the highest level of business and politics. A friend and confidant to presidents, Jordan has never forgotten the men and women-from Ruby Hurley to Wiley Branton to Gardner C. Taylor to Martin Luther King, Jr. -whose oratorical skill in service to social justice deeply influenced him. Their examples and voices, reflected in Vernon's own, make this book both a history and an embodiment of black speech at its finest: Full of emotion, controlled force, righteous indignation, love of country, and awe in front of the God-given challenges ahead.
A number-one Washington Post bestseller, this memoir is the unforgettable story of a life and its times. As a student in Atlanta, Vernon Jordan had a summer job driving a white banker around town. During the man's afternoon naps, Jordan passed the time reading books, a fact that astounded his boss. "Vernon can read!" the man exclaimed to his relatives. Nearly fifty years later, Vernon Jordan, long-time civil rights leader, adviser and close friend to presidents and business leaders, remembers the sweeping struggles, changes, and dangers of black life during the civil rights revolution. After attending a predominantly white college in the Midwest and graduating from Howard University Law School, Jordan dedicated himself to the civil rights movement. He led the drive to register black voters in the South and was president of the National Urban League, one of the great civil rights organizations of the era, where he was instrumental in integrating American businesses and providing economic and social support to the expanding black middle class. He survived a white racist's assassination attempt and later became a pillar of America's legal, corporate, and political worlds. But Jordan's life was shaped in his early years, and this book is also a moving testament to the family whose support and courage provided the framework for his achievements. Vernon Can Read! chronicles a life of courage, pride, sacrifice, style, and accomplishment.
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