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Shirley Chisholm: First Black Woman to Run For President

Elected to House of Representatives, She Eyed the Next House - The White House


Shirley Chisholm: First Black Woman to Run For President

Shirley Chisholm

Thomas J. O'Halloran / U.S. News & World Reports
Updated May 19, 2014
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was a political figure who was decades ahead of her time. As a woman and a person of color, she has a long lists of firsts to her credit, including:

  • First African American woman elected to Congress (1968)
  • First African American woman to seek a major party nomination for President of the United States (1972)
  • First woman to have her name placed in nomination for President at the Democratic National Convention
  • First African American to be on the ballot as a candidate for President

"Unbought and Unbossed"

After serving just three years in Congress representing New York's 12th District, Chisholm decided to run using the slogan that had gotten her elected to Congress in the first place: "Unbought and Unbossed."

From the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, NY, Chisholm initially pursued a professional career in child care and early childhood education. Switching to politics, she served four years in the New York State Assembly before she made a name for herself as the first black woman to be elected to Congress.

Chisholm Just Said No

Early on, she was not one to play political games. As her presidential campaign brochure tells it:

When given an assignment to sit on the House Agriculture Committee Congresswoman Chisholm rebelled. There is very little agriculture in Brooklyn...She now sits on the House Education and Labor Committee, an assignment that allows her to combine her interests and experience with the critical needs of her constituents.

The woman who refused to knuckle under decided to run "to give a voice to the people the major candidates were ignoring."

"Candidate of the People of America"

In announcing her presidential campaign on January 27, 1972, at the Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY, Chisholm said:

I stand before you today as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America.

I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud.

I am not the candidate of the women's movement of this country, although I am a woman, and I am equally proud of that.

I am not the candidate of any political bosses or fat cats or special interests.

I stand here now without endorsements from many big name politicians or celebrities or any other kind of prop. I do not intend to offer to you the tired and glib cliches, which for too long have been an accepted part of our political life. I am the candidate of the people of America. And my presence before you now symbolizes a new era in American political history.

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