A black woman’s bespectacled face appeared in front of a podium. Her head was barely visible above the forest of microphones. It was 1972, and Shirley Chisholm was announcing her historic run for the White House, challenging fellow Democrats George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, Edmund Muskie, Henry M. Jackson and George Wallace. “I am not the candidate of Black America, although I am Black and proud. I am not the candidate of the woman’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and I am equally proud of that.”
Before Carol Moseley Braun, before Barack Obama, before Hillary Clinton, Shirley Chisholm was both the first woman and the first African American to run for the nomination of a major party for President of the United States. Already the first black woman to be elected to the United States Congress in 1968, Chisholm made her ambitious attempt to win the White House decades before her country was ready for her, garnering just 152 delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention.
Robert Gottlieb was first an intern in Chisholm’s Congressional office and later hired as the student coordinator for her presidential campaign, which would come to rely heavily on the support of college students. “She was unafraid of anybody,” says Gottlieb. “Her slogan was ‘unbought and unbossed.’ She was really unbossed.”
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1924, Shirley Chisholm is best known for becoming the first black congresswoman (1968), representing New York State in the U.S. House of Representatives for seven terms. She went on to run for the 1972 Democratic nomination for the presidency—becoming the first major-party African-American candidate to do so. Throughout her political career, Chisholm fought for education opportunities and social justice. Chisholm left Congress in 1983 to teach. She died in Florida in 2005.
Personal Life & Legacy
Chisholm was married to Conrad Chisholm from 1949 to 1977. She wed Arthur Hardwick Jr. in 1986. She authored two books during her lifetime, Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973).
Chisholm died on January 1, 2005, at the age of 80, in Ormond Beach (near Daytona Beach), Florida. Nearly 11 years later, in November 2015, she was posthumously awarded the distinguished Presidential Medal of Freedom
“She was our Moses that opened the Red Sea for us,” Robert E. Williams, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Flagler County, once said of Chisholm in an interview with The Associated Press. William Howard, Chisholm’s longtime campaign treasurer, expressed similar sentiments. “Anyone that came in contact with her, they had a feeling of a careness,” Howard said, “and they felt that she was very much a part of each individual as she represented her district.” (Biography.com)