Hillary Clinton made history this past Tuesday after becoming the presumptive nominee for president for the Democratic Party. While Clinton’s historic achievement is noteworthy, one-time presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm’s place in history should not go unrecognized.
Chisholm made history twice in her lifetime. She was the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress, and the first African-American to seek a presidential nomination from major political party. Chisholm was born November 30, 1924 in Brooklyn, New York to Guyanese and Barbadian parents.
After living in Barbados for a time as a child, Chisholm returned to America and excelled as a student. She often credited her time in her mother’s home country for fortifying her academic ability. After graduating from Brooklyn College in 1946, Chisholm entered Columbia University’s Teachers College and left with a Master’s in 1952.
After working in child and health care, Chisholm threw her hat into the political realm, winning her first elected post as part of the New York state legislature. On November 5, 1968, Chisholm was elected to New York’s 12th District congressional seat.
Chisholm was initially assigned to the House Agricultural Committee, but pushed back and was assigned to the Veteran’s Affairs Committee. Ultimately she landed on the Education and Labor Committee, an arena where she was most effective as a former educator.
In 1972, Chisholm launched her presidential campaign surviving several assassination attempts and media attacks from press who thought her candidacy was a tremendous reach. Despite her popularity and the support she garnered from women’s groups across several demographics, Chisholm’s campaign failed in the end.
After leaving Congress in 1982, Chisholm went on to teach at Mount Holyoke College and served briefly as the United States Ambassador to Jamaica under the Clinton Administration.
After suffering strokes and other health issues, Chisholm died in 2005. A year before her death, she stated that she was proud of her accomplishments but wanted to be remembered as a woman who “dared to be herself.”
(Photo: Public Domain)