Shirley Chisholm was best known for being the first African American woman elected to Congress as well as the first African American to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Chisholm, who died this past New Year’s Day, at 80, was a trailblazer for both minorities and women.
“I ran for the Presidency, despite hopeless odds, to demonstrate the sheer refusal to accept the status quo,” Chisholm said in her book, “The Good Fight.”
“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.”
Chisholm was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York by West Indian immigrants. Upon graduating from Girls High School in Brooklyn in 1942, she attended Brooklyn College. While at Brooklyn College, her black counterparts were not allowed admittance into a particular social club on campus. Chisholm started her own social club on the campus as a result.
Shortly after graduating with honors, in 1949, from Brooklyn College she became a teacher. While teaching, she attended Columbia University, where she earned her Masters degree in elementary education.
In 1964, Chisholm was elected to the New York State legislature. Following this, she was elected as the Democratic candidate for New York’s 12th District Congressional seat and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1968. After being elected, she was assigned to work on the House Agriculture Committee, but demanded reassignment because she believed the committee did not directly benefit her urban constituency. She was reassigned to the Veteran Affairs Committee.
While in Congress, Chisholm worked to provide inner-city residents with a better quality of life. She was an advocate for spending increases for education and healthcare and stood firmly against the military draft for the Vietnam War.
A year after being elected to the House of Representatives, Chisholm became one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, of which Elijah Cummings currently serves as the chairman.
In 1972, she ran as a democratic nominee for the presidency. Although, she did not win the nomination she had 152 delegate votes.
Chisholm also wrote two books: Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973).