In 1972, Shirley Chisholm made history as the first woman and the first African American to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. She is also remembered as a tireless worker for the disadvantaged, a great orator, and one of America’s boldest challengers of the status quo.
Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1924. In 1953, she graduated from Brooklyn College and later earned a Master’s Degree from Teachers College at Columbia University. She worked in the educational field.
In 1964, Chisholm entered politics, winning a seat on the New York State Legislature. Four years later, she ran for New York’s Twelfth Congressional District Seat. With the campaign slogan, “Fighting Shirley Chisholm- Unbought and Unbossed” she won the election and became the first black woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. Of her win she noted, “That I am a national figure because I was the first person in 192 years to be at once a congressman, black and a woman proves, I think, that our society is not yet either just or free.”
A continual advocate for the rights of the poor, women, and children and a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War, Chisholm was never intimidated and continually challenged the status quo. In her first speech in front of the House she promised, “to vote ‘No’ on every money bill that comes to the floor of this House that provides any funds for the Department of Defense."
In January of 1972, she announced her candidacy for the Democratic party’s nomination for the Presidency. She ran a grassroots campaign that had very little money, and at times faced opposition from black male politicians who resented her as being “the first to run”.
She was physically attacked three times on the campaign trail, but she remained undaunted, saying, "If you can't support me, get out of my way."
Chisholm took 151 delegates, but she did not win the nomination. She served in the U.S. Congress until 1982. She founded and chaired the National Political Congress of Black Women. She continued working as an educator and speaker until her death in 1995.
Chisholm’s legacy of fearless politics continues to resonate today.
Former Chisholm campaigner and current member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Barbara Lee bravely stood alone on the Congressional floor in opposition to the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), President George Bush’s demand for a blank check to fund a military response in the frenzied wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001 (She stated that it was not sound policy to let the President attack anyone, anywhere, especially when the facts of the situation were not clear.)
In her 1973 book, The Good Fight, Chishom wrote, “"The next time a woman runs, or a black, or a Jew or anyone from a group that the country is ‘not ready' to elect to its highest office, I believe that he or she will be taken seriously from the start… I ran because somebody had to do it first. In this country, everybody is supposed to be able to run for President, but that has never really been true."
It only took 36 more years…
Shirley Chisholm: Unbought and Unbossed!
You are truly an inspiration.
This post will wrap up our Black History Month celebration of great Americans. If you would like to write a short report on a memorable historical figure whose life accomplishments and values are relevant to the philosophy and history of Capoeira Angola, please feel free to submit it to us at: ficadcarchives (at) gmail (dot) com.
As always, we can do the translation English <-> Portuguese.