SHIRLEY CHISHOLM: A COURAGEOUS VISIONARY


First Major Black Candidate for President

Was Shirley Chishom’s attempt to become the President of the United States in 1972 insurmountable? Obviously, she did not think so, but many blacks did think so. While admiring her courage and vision, they wondered secretly and openly, if this was the time. Then . . . when was the time? There is no “magical day or year” one should break the chain of inequality and racism. It happens when someone says. “Enough is enough, I’m going to force change!” That person was Shirley Chisholm!

THE EARLY YEARS

Shirley Chisholm was born in 1924 in Brooklyn, New York to immigrant parents from the Caribbean. Her father worked in a factory and her mother was a skilled seamtress and domestic worker. Young Chisholm graduated from Brooklyn College in 1946 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, and in 1952, earned a Master’s Degree from Columbia, University. Her national, political career began in 1968, when she became the first African American female to be elected to Congress.

SHIRLEY IN POLITICS

As a congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm worked tirelessly to improve opportunities for inner city residents; opposed the draft; supported increases in health care, education and social service. She was a strong, vocal opponent of the Vietnam War.

Photo: Courtesy of Charles Gorry

January of 1972, she announced her candidacy for the presidency, and became, not only the first black, major-party candidate, but the first woman to run for president in the Democratic Party. Her campaign was grossly under-funded, largely because she was ignored by the Democratic establishment and not supported by black counterparts. Security was a problem. Her bodyguard was Conrad Chisholm for five months, in spite of the fact that she received three confirmed threats against her life. In May 1972, the Secret Service was assigned to her. During the primaries, Chisholm received 28 delegates and 152 during the Democratic Convention. When asked why she ran for the presidency, She replied, “To demonstrate sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo.”

Courtesy of Pbs.org

After leaving Congress, Shirley Chisholm taught politics and sociology at Mount Holyoke College and gave speeches at numerous colleges. Later, she campaigned for Jesse Jackson in his bid for the 1988 presidency. She died in 2005.