Black History Month Celebration: Shirley A. Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm (Rep. N.Y.) announcing her candidacy for the presidency in Brooklyn, New York on Jan. 25, 1972.
Associated Press /Jim Wells, file

Congresswoman Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was the first African-American woman elected to Congress.

Chisholm was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the first African American to make a serious bid for the Presidency of the United States of America.

The CBC Foundation said Chisholm was “known for her advocacy on behalf of women and underserved minorities.”

She was also noted for her opposition to the US involvement in the Vietnam War, her support of full-employment programs, and her efforts on behalf of Black colleges, compulsory education, and minimum wage, the CBC Foundation said.

It said Chisholm, the daughter of Barbadian and Guyanese immigrants, was born in New York City on Nov. 30, 1924. She grew up in Barbados and in Brooklyn, New York, the foundation said.

It said Chisholm she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College in 1946, and while working as a teacher, she earned a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College.

Until 1964, she served as a director of a childcare center and an education consultant.

In 1964, the foundation said Chisholm ran and was elected to the New York State Legislature, where she served for four years.

Then, in 1968, the foundation said she became the first African-American woman elected to Congress, representing New York’s then 12th District.

Chisholm served the United States House of Representatives for seven terms, from 1968-1983 (91st-97th Congresses), the foundation said.

It said she was the first African-American woman elected to the US Congress and was “an effective advocate for the needs of minorities, women and children.”

The foundation said Chisholm served on the Education and Labor, Rules, and Veterans Affairs committees.

During her 15 years in the House, it said Chisholm co-founded the National Political Congress of Black Women, supported the Equal Rights Amendment, and fought to legalize abortions.

Chisholm was also a co-founder the National Organization for Women (NOW), the foundation said.

In 1972, it said Chisholm was also the first African-American woman to run for President of the United States.

When she retired in 1983, she was the third-highest ranking member of the Education and Labor Committee, the foundation said.

After leaving Congress, it said Chisholm was named to the Purington Chair at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she taught politics and women’s studies, while remaining an advocate for education.

In both 1984 and 1988, the foundation said Chisholm worked on the presidential campaigns of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. In 1987, she retired from teaching and moved to Florida. Rep. Chisholm died on Jan. 1, 2005.

The CBC Foundation noted that, in February 2005, “Shirley Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed”, a documentary film chronicling Chisholm’s 1972 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, was aired on US public television.

Chisholm was also the author of two autobiographical works entitled “Unbought and Unbossed” (1970) and “The Good Fight” (1973), the foundation said. also said that Champion, “a champion of minority education and employment opportunities throughout her tenure in Congress, was also a vocal opponent of the draft.”

After leaving Congress in 1983, she taught at Mount Holyoke College and was popular on the lecture circuit, said.

It said Chisholm was married to Conrad Chisholm from 1949 to 1977, and that she wed Arthur Hardwick Jr. in 1977.