Rose Jourdain, Angela Wright’s Co-Worker, Lives On In Her Writing
Although Rose Jourdain was denied the opportunity to make her voice heard in the controversial confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, she found many other ways to have her say in society. Before and after the Thomas hearing, Jourdain was an accomplished writer and community leader. Jourdain passed away in 2010, but her written words remain relevant today — and not just because HBO has brought the case back through a new movie, Confirmation.
An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) employee under Thomas, Jourdain was prepared to testify against him at the time of his confirmation in 1991. She had worked closely with Angela Wright, another EEOC employee, who alleged that Thomas directed inappropriate behavior toward her. Wright claimed that Thomas had asked about her breast size and pressured her to go out with him; accusations similar to those made by Anita Hill, on whom HBO's movie focuses. Thomas has vehemently denied these claims.
Jourdain had also been interviewed by the committee because she was allegedly able to corroborate Wright's claims.
Ultimately, Wright and Jourdain were not called to testify in front of the Senate judiciary committee in the same way that Hill was. Their phone conversations with committee staff members were introduced into the hearing, but their stories, which would have allegedly supported Hill's claims of sexual harassment, likely did not have nearly the impact they would have if the two women had been called to testify in person. Then-Senator Joe Biden was the head of the judiciary committee, and his team clarified to CNN why, exactly, Wright, and thus Jourdain, weren't called:
On page 440 of the hearing transcript is a letter sent from Biden to one of the women, Angela Wright, vitiating her subpoena. The letter references an agreement between her and the committee that she not testify and instead provide transcripts of interviews of her and a corroborating witness. In the letter Biden says it is his preference that she testify, but that there are time constraints under which the committee was operating.
Even still, Jourdain's life beyond the Thomas case was impactful. According to the Evanston RoundTable, a community newspaper in Jourdain's hometown, both her father and grandfather had been involved in the civil rights movement, and Jourdain carried on their work in advocacy and community organization. Jourdain was a college-educated journalist in Chicago and New York, as well as a community organizer in Harlem and Manhattan. She also worked as a speechwriter for the EEOC and, by default, Thomas, who was chairman at the time.
In 1978, Jourdain's novel, Those The Sun Has Loved, was published, some 13 years before the Thomas hearing. The novel told the fictional story of an African-American family over several generations, with the most modern male relative running for president. It would be another 30 years before Barack Obama, a senator from Jourdain's home state of Illinois, would successfully run for president, but Jourdain was involved in his campaign, according to an obituary in The Chicago Tribune.
At the time of her death, it was reported in multiple obituaries, including in the Tribune, that Jourdain had been working on other manuscripts up until her death. Her story may not have made it into the Thomas hearing or HBO's movie Confirmation in a big way, but it can still live on in these other forms.