Shirley Chisholm
National Visionary

November 30, 1924 - January 1, 2005
Born in Brooklyn, New York

Congresswoman, civil rights leader; the first African American woman elected to Congress, and to run for the office of U. S. President under a major party

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to the United States Congress, where she served as the representative for the 12th district of New York from 1969 until 1982. In 1972, she was the first black woman to run for the presidency of the United States under a major party.

Chisholm as a young woman

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Raised and educated in Barbados and the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, New York, Chisholm trained as a teacher at Brooklyn College. She learned the arts of organizing and fundraising, joining the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

She developed a keen interest in politics. After a successful teaching career, Chisholm was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1964, and then in 1968 successfully ran for the U.S. Congress.

Always considering herself a political maverick, Chisholm protested expenses for the defense budget while social programs suffered. She supported pro-choice legislation. She argued that women be admitted to male dominated professions--particularly black women, who had been shunted into stereotypical maid and nanny roles. Her antiwar and women's liberation views made her a popular figure among college students.

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Civil rights for blacks, women, and the poor, the U.S. judicial system, police brutality, prison reform, gun control, political dissent, and drug abuse were issues she consistently spoke out on when she ran for the presidency. George McGovern won the Democratic presidential nomination, but Chisholm captured ten percent of the delegates' votes. As a result of her candidacy, Chisholm was voted one of the ten most admired women in the world.

After her campaign, Chisholm continued to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for another decade. As a member of the Black Caucus she saw black representation in the Congress grow, and welcomed other black women as US representatives.

Chisholm co-founded the National Political Congress of Black Women in 1984 and worked vigorously for the presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988. She also served as Purington Professor at Massachusetts' Mount Holyoke College, where she taught politics and women's studies. In 1985, she was a visiting scholar at Spelman College. In 1987, she retired from teaching.

Shirley Chisholm died on New Year's Day 2005.


Shirley Chisholm's Wikipedia page
National Women's Hall of Fame profile page

John Conyers' Visionary Page (founding member of the CBC)
Yvonne Burke's Visionary Page (served together in Congress)
Cardiss Collins' Visionary Page (served together in Congress)
Dorothy Height's Visionary Page (Women's Hall of Fame inductee)

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/chisholmshirley