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Shirley Chisholm

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Shirley Chisholm (Library of Congress)

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Shirley Anita Chisholm (1924-2005) was an American political figure who served in the House of Representatives from 1969 to 1983 representing New York's 12th Congressional District. She was the first African-American woman to serve as a congressional representative. Chisholm was a member of the Democratic Party. She unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for presidency in 1972. During her colorful and controversial career, Chisholm was renowned for her political liberalism and her advocacy of rights and equality for the underprivileged people, such as African-Americans, the poverty-stricken, and women.

Early life and career

Shirley Chisholm was born in 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. She obtained early education in Barbados, her parents' homeland, and later attended the New York public schools.[1] She obtained her bachelor's degree at Brooklyn College and a master's degree at Columbia University in elementary education. She taught at a nursery school and later became the director of Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center in New York City. During her career in education she advocated for decentralization of policies on schools. She served in the New York state legislature from 1964 until her election to the U.S. Congress in 1968.

Congressional career

Chisholm ran for Congress in 1968 on the Democratic ticket with the slogan "unbought and unbossed." Her opponent from the Republican Party was James L. Farmer, the famous civil rights leader and founder of Congress of Racial Equality. In spite of Governor Nelson Rockefelle's endorsement of Farmer, Chisholm won the election.[2] Her election was significant not only because it was the first time an African-American woman was elected to Congress, but her campaign was noted for targeting the female constituency.[3] Chisholm was re-elected six times.

In Congress, she was known for her outspokenness and uncompromising style. She focused on issues such as poverty, civil rights, and women's rights. she was one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969.[4] In 1970, she authored a child care bill which was passed the House and the Senate but vetoed by President Richard Nixon, who called it "the Sovietization of American children".[5] She supported the Equal Rights Amendment and legalized abortion.[6]

In the area of national security and foreign policy, Chisholm worked for the revocation of Internal Security Act of 1950.[7] She opposed the American involvement in the Vietnam War and the expansion of weapon developments. During the Carter administration, she called for better treatment of Haitian refugees.[8]

Presidential bid

During the 1972 presidential race, she tried for Democratic nomination, becoming the first African-American woman to run for president. However, she obtained only 152 votes from the delegates in the Democratic national convention and the nomination was won by George McGovern (Senator from South Dakota). McGovern lost in the general election to President Richard Nixon. Chisholm herself later reflected that her presidential bid was mainly for symbolic reasons.[9]

In her presidential campaign, she highlighted her efforts in Congress to introduce day-care legislations, to establish a minimum annual income for families, to bring back the troops from Vietnam. She also emphasized her record against installation of missiles such as MIRV (multiple independently-targeted reentry vehicles) and ABM (antiballistic missile). In a campaign brochure she promised reforms and styled her presidential bid as a "dynamic force for responsible change".[10] She also denounced the influence of special interest in American politics.[11]

During her 1972 campaign, she surprised the nation by visiting the famous segregationist governor of Alabama and competing presidential candidate George Wallace in the hospital after he survived an assassination attempt. In return, Wallace helped to convince Southerners to support the extension of the federal minimum wage.[12]

Later life, death and beyond

Chisholm (middle) with Congressman Edolphus Towns and his wife

Chisholm did not run for re-election in 1982 and retired from Congress. She then started a career in higher education, teaching politics and women's studies at Mount Holyoke College from 1983 to 1987. In 1985, she was a visiting scholar at Spelman College. In 1984 and 1988, she campaigned for Jesse Jackson for the presidential elections. In 1993, President Clinton nominated her to the ambassadorship to Jamaica, but she could not serve due to poor health. In the same year she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[13] Chisholm died in Florida in 2005.

She had married twice in her life. Her first husband, Conrad Q. Chisholm, a Jamaican private investigator, she married in 1949 and divorced in 1977.[14] She married Arthur Hardwick Jr. in 1978. Hardwick died in 1986. During her lifetime, Chisholm did not have any children.[4]

Shortly after Chisholm's death, in February 2005, a documentary film titled Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed, documenting her 1972 presidential bid, was premiered on PBS.[15]

Barbara Lee, an African-American woman who was involved in Chisholm's presidential campaign in northern California, later also became a member of the House of Representatives.[16]

Sources

Citations

  1. Gale Black History
  2. "Governor Endorses James Farmer Race", New York Times, October 7, 1968.
  3. Glenna Matthews, American Women's History: A Student Companion (2000)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Coralie Carlson, Pioneering Politician, Candidate Dies, Washington Post (originally Associated Press), January 3, 2005.
  5. NOW Honors Guts and Glory of Shirley Chisholm
  6. Britannica's Guide to Women's History
  7. Democracy Now! radio station news
  8. Charles R. Babcock, "Rep. Chisholm Asks Equity For Haiti's Black Refugees", Washington Post, June 18, 1980.
  9. "Shirley Chisholm: A political trailblazer, she made history as the first black woman in Congress." People, January, 17, 2005, 108.
  10. Shirley Chisholm for President 1972 Campaign Brochure
  11. Chisholm's candidacy announcement
  12. James Barron, Shirley Chisholm, 'Unbossed' Pioneer in Congress, Is Dead at 80, New York Times, January 3, 2005.
  13. National Women's Hall of Fame, Women of the Hall - Shirley Chisholm
  14. Shirley Chisholm's biography on NNDB
  15. About the film --- on PBS website
  16. Bil Paul, Lee a foe of the war since day 1, East Bay Daily News, November 16, 2006.
  • Some of the citations were retrieved from ProQuest E-Library and Historical Newspapers database.

General references

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