Black History Month spotlight: Shirley Chisholm leads in politics

Chisholm inspires change
Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman to run for president in 1972.
Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman to run for president in 1972.

Carter G. Woodson planted a seed in 1926 with his Negro History Week that would 50 years later bloom into Black History Month. Black History Month, an annual observance, celebrates the triumphs of Black Americans. The national theme for the 2024 Black History Month features “African Americans and the Arts.” In the spirit of Black History Month, Black heroes, past and present, country-wide and local will be highlighted here in The Feather. The goal of this series is to shed light on lesser known Black Americans who had a great impact in America. This serves to expand students’ understanding of American history by providing them with a glimpse of a piece that is so often missing.  

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York, to first-generation immigrant parents from Barbados on Nov. 30, 1924. Chisholm was the oldest of four girls, her parents a factory worker and seamstress who installed much of her strong will from a young age. For most of her childhood, she grew up on her grandmother’s farm in Barbados until the age of 11. She graduated from Brooklyn Girls’ High in 1942 and from Brooklyn College enrolled in the Cum Laude Latin honors program in 1946. Later she earned a master’s degree from Columbia University.

Chisholm’s campaign flyer for the 1972 Presidential Election. ((The Library of Congress))

She became the first African American Woman to be elected into New-York State legislation in 1969. She was given the name “Fighting Shirley” after fighting against the restrictions given to her when she was running for office due to her skin color and gender. She proposed over 50 pieces of legislation notably racial injustices, gender equality, the Vietnam war, and bills to help the poor. She later became a co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971 which combats “against sexism, racism, institutional violence and poverty.”

Further discrimination didn’t stop her from running for Presidential nomination for the Democratic party in 1972. Prejudice continued to limit her when she was blocked from participating in televised debates. After taking legal action, she was allowed one speech. This speech further helped her gain 152 delegate votes (10% of all votes). 

Despite her lack of funds in her campaign, Chisholm made history. In 1977, Chisholm served in a powerful role on the House Rules Committee: She was the first Black woman and second woman to hold this position. After serving 11 more years in her congressional seat, she became the U.S. Ambassador of Jamaica. Chisholm passed away at the age of 80 in 2005. She will forever be remembered and honored for her contributions to fighting for African American and Women’s rights in America.

“I want to be remembered as a woman,” Chisholm said. “I want to be remembered as a woman… who dared to be a catalyst of change.”

To learn more about Shirley Chisholm, go to National Women’s History Museum, National Archives, Smithsonian, National Museum of African American History & Culture.

To read more from The Feather go to Black History Month: Ruby Bridges integrates schools or An Act of Courage.



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About the Contributor
Garrett Alvis
Garrett Alvis, Journalist
   Garrett Alvis is a sophomore at Fresno Christian High School and two-year veteran of nationally-renowned newspaper, The Feather Online. Garrett has a passion for bringing God glory through cross-cultural ministry. Garrett serves on the school worship team and has a deep love for music and visual arts. He takes pleasure in experiencing all of God's beautiful and intricate creations that he is able.
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