• Kimberley Guillemet

World Changer of the Month — April 2021: Shirley Chisholm


Shirley Chisholm is known for breaking barriers.


Born in Brooklyn, New York, she studied and worked in early childhood education, becoming involved in local Democratic party politics in the 1950s. In 1964, after overcoming some resistance because she was a woman, she was elected to the New York State Assembly. In 1968, she became the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, representing New York's 12th congressional district for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. In January of 1972, Congresswoman Chisholm became the first Black person to seek the presidential nomination from one of the two major parties (the first woman was Margaret Chase Smith, who sought the Republican nomination in 1964). Her slogan was: “Unbought and Unbossed.” From the beginning, journalists and politicians did not take her bid seriously, with one journalist calling her “quixotic” in the Wall Street Journal. Though she did not win the Democratic party's nomination, Congresswoman Chisholm led an inspirational and courageous campaign. During the campaign, filmmaker Peter Lilienthal shot the documentary film Shirley Chisholm for President.


During her time in Congress, Congresswoman Chisholm led expansion of food and nutrition programs for the underserved and rose to party leadership, serving as a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. She retired from Congress in 1983 and taught at Mount Holyoke College, while continuing her political organizing. Although nominated for an ambassadorship in 1993, health issues caused her to withdraw. In 2015, Chisholm was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Chisholm; https://www.history.com/news/shirley-chisholm-presidential-campaign-george-wallace.