American politician and activist, Shirley Chisholm

Former U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. File photo.

By Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief

With the all the women elected to office in 2018, it would be difficult to talk about Black History Month without mentioning Shirley Chisholm.

Chisholm made history in 1968 by becoming the first African-American woman elected to Congress, beginning the first of seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. She defeated Civil Rights Leader, James Farmer.

In 1969 she became one of the founding members of what would become the Congressional Black Caucus. According to reports, Chisholm quickly became known as a strong liberal who opposed weapons development and the war in Vietnam and favored full-employment proposals. She was a champion of minority education and employment opportunities throughout her tenure in Congress.

She also made history becoming the first major-party African-American female candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. president in 1972; she won 152 delegates before withdrawing from the race.

Chisholm was born Shirley Anita St. Hill, and was the daughter of immigrants; her father was from what is now Guyana, and her mother from Barbados. She grew up in Barbados and her native Brooklyn, New York, and graduated from Brooklyn College in 1946. She studied elementary education at Columbia University and, in 1952, received her master’s degree. She married Conrad Q. Chisholm in 1949 (divorced 1977).

Before her bid for office, she worked as an education consultant for New York City’s day-care division; she was also active with community and political groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and her district’s Unity Democratic Club.

From 1964–68 she represented her Brooklyn district in the New York state legislature.

Also, a founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus, she supported the Equal Rights Amendment and legalized abortions throughout her congressional career, which lasted from 1969 to 1983. She wrote the autobiographical works Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973).

After her retirement from Congress, she remained active on the lecture circuit. She held the position of Purington Professor at Mount Holyoke College (1983–87) and was a visiting scholar at Spelman College (1985).

In 1993 she was invited by President Bill Clinton to serve as ambassador to Jamaica but declined because of poor health.

Chisholm was born on November 30, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York, and died January 1, 2005, in Ormond Beach, Florida.

Chisholm was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 by President Barack Obama, who cited her and 20 other individuals as those who “moved America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.”

Information for this aggregate story was obtained from the White House website and Encyclopedia Britannica.

Copyright The Gayly. 2/18/2019 @6:42 a.m. CST.