“I'd like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts. That's how I'd like to be remembered.” ―
Fifteen members of the Congressional Black Caucus pose on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in 1977, from left to right: (front row) Barbara Jordan of Texas, Robert Nix, Sr., of Pennsylvania, Ralph Metcalfe of Illinois, Cardiss Collins of Illinois, Parren Mitchell of Maryland, Gus Hawkins of California, Shirley Chisholm of New York; (middle row) John Conyers, Jr., of Michigan, Charles Rangel of New York, Harold Ford, Sr., of Tennessee, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke of California, Walter Fauntroy of the District of Columbia; (back row) Ronald Dellums of California, Louis Stokes of Ohio, and Charles C. Diggs, Jr., of Michigan.
The Life of Shirley Chisholm
In 1964, Chisholm was elected to the New York state legislature, and was the second African–American woman to serve in Albany. She spent four years as an assembly member before winning the historical Congressional seat that would lead to her representing her constituents and neighbors in New York’s 12th district for seven consecutive terms. Her campaign motto of “unbought and unbossed” became the title of her autobiography. The phrase is often used as a tribute to Chisholm’s spirit and determination. Throughout her political career and her years spent as a teacher, Chisholm fought for education opportunities, food programs for school children, and charged against social injustices. She served on the Education and Labor committees and was instrumental in the founding of both the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 and the National Women’s Political Caucus the following year. In 1972, Chisholm again made history when she declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. She campaigned across the country, and became known as the “candidate for the people.”
Shirley Chisholm’s personal and professional achievements span the years of 1924 to 2005:
November 30, 1924: Born Shirley Anita St. Hill in Brooklyn, NY
1928-1934: Lives in Barbados with maternal grandmother
1942: Graduates from Girls' High School in Brooklyn, NY
1946: Graduates from Brooklyn College with a bachelor of arts degree. Joins Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, incorporated during college years at Brooklyn College (1942-1946)
1952: Earns a master's degree in elementary education from Columbia University's Teacher's College
1949: Marries Conrad Chisholm
1954-1959: Offered directorship of the large Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center
1960: Helps to form a Unity Democratic Club in New York
1959-1964: Serves as an educational consultant for the City Division of Day Care
1964: Elected to the New York State Legislature
1965: In the New York State legislature, she sponsors the introduction of the SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge) program.
1968: First woman and person of African descent to be elected to United States Congressional 12th District, where she serves for seven terms from 1969 to 1983
1969: Becomes founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Chisholm was the only woman among the founding members.
1970: Cofounds the National Organization for Women (NOW)
1970 – Publishes her book Unbought and Unbossed
1971 – Becomes one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Chisholm was the only woman among the founding members
1971 – Cofounds the National Women’s Political Caucus
January 23, 1972: Chisholm becomes the first African-American person to run for president.
1972: Chisholm is first woman and person of African descent to run for the Democratic nomination for President (receiving 151 of the delegates' votes)
1973: Publishes her book The Good Fight
1977: Joins the powerful House Rules Committee
1977: Marries Arthur Hardwick, Jr.
1983: Ends her term as a congresswoman representing New York's 12th District
1983-1987: Chisholm is named as the Purington Chair at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she teaches politics and sociology
1984 and 1988: Chisholm works on the presidential campaigns of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.
1985: Serves as visiting scholar at Spelman College
1990: Becomes founding signatory of the African-American Women for Reproductive Freedom
1990: Inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame
1993: Former President Bill Clinton nominates Chisholm to be US Ambassador to Jamaica, but she could not serve due to poor health and the nomination was withdrawn
January 1, 2005: Shirley Chisholm dies in Ormond Beach, Florida, at age 80
January 2005: Buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY
February 2005: Shirley Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed, a documentary film chronicling Chisholm's 1972 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, airs on U.S. public television
October 4, 2010: New York State honors Chisholm by naming 55 Hanson Place, the Shirley A. Chisholm New York State Office Building
January 31, 2014: The U.S. Postal Service pays tribute to Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm with the issuance of a limited-edition 37th Black Heritage Forever Stamp
November 24, 2015: Shirley Chisholm was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
July 2, 2019: Shirley Chisholm State Park is a 407-acre (1.65 km2) state park that is under construction in southeastern Brooklyn, New York City. It is bound by Belt Parkway and Spring Creek Park to the north and Jamaica Bay to the south, situated atop the former Pennsylvania Avenue and Fountain Avenue Landfills. The first sections of the park opened in 2019; it is expected to be completed by 2021
2020: (To be unveiled sometime in 2020) The 40-foot-tall steel sculpture, titled Our Destiny, Our Democracy, combines two images: a portrait of Chisholm and the silhouette of the US capitol building, each of which becomes visible depending on the viewer’s vantage point. The work will sit in the center of an amphitheater-like space at the southeast corner of Prospect Park, where some chairs will be engraved with the names of the other women who have been elected to Congress, while leaving space for others still to come.
Dr. La Tasha A. Brown
Shirley A. Chisholm Center for Equity Studies
55 Hanson Place, 9th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(845) 563-9905 ext. 3458 | (845) 391-5009