Today is the 97th birthday of the first African American congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.
NAME: Shirley Chisholm
BIRTH DATE: November 30, 1924
DEATH DATE: January 1, 2005
EDUCATION: Brooklyn College, Columbia University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Ormond Beach, Florida
REMAINS: Buried, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY
National Organization for Women Cofounder
National Women’s Hall of Fame 1993
BEST KNOWN FOR: Shirley Chisholm became the first African American congresswoman in 1968. Four years later, she became the first major-party black candidate to make a bid for the U.S. presidency.
Chisholm was born Shirley Anita St. Hill on November 30, 1924, in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Chisholm spent part of her childhood in Barbados with her grandmother. After graduating from Brooklyn College in 1946, she began her career as a teacher and went on to earn a master’s degree in elementary education from Columbia University.
Chisholm served as director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center from 1953 to 1959, and as an educational consultant for New York City’s Bureau of Child Welfare from 1959 to 1964.
In 1968, Chisholm made history by becoming the United States’ first African American congresswoman, beginning the first of seven terms in the House of Representatives.
After initially being assigned to the House Forestry Committee, she shocked many by demanding reassignment. She was placed on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, eventually graduating to the Education and Labor Committee. Chisholm became one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969 and championed minority education and employment opportunities throughout her tenure in Congress.
Chisholm went on to make history yet again, becoming the first African American and the second woman to make a bid for the U.S. presidency with a major party when she ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972.
In announcing her bid, Chisholm said, “I am not the candidate of Black America, although I am Black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and I am equally proud of that. I am the candidate of the people, and my presence before you now symbolizes a new era in American political history.”
Although she ran a spirited campaign, Chisholm was unable to consolidate the support of influential Black leaders, giving way for South Dakota Senator George McGovern to claim the Democratic nomination.
Author of books:
Unbought and Unbossed (1970)
The Good Fight (1973)