On this day 97-years ago, a political and womanist icon was born. Shirley Chisholm went on to make history in 1968, becoming the first Black woman elected to Congress. At only 43 years old, she represented New York’s 12th Congressional District, an office she held for seven terms from 1969 to 1983.
In 1972, she became the first African American major-party candidate to run for president of the United States and was also the first woman to ever run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Chisholm was a fearless fighter for education, voting rights, equality and was famously “unbought and unbossed.”
The trailblazing Black legislator was also widely seen as having helped pave the way for women politicians like Hillary Clinton.
Back in 2016, Dr. E. Faye Williams, president and CEO of National Congress of Black Women, and filmmaker Shola Lynch, producer of the documentary, “Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed,” joined Roland Martin on “NewsOne Now” to discuss Clinton’s becoming the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party and the role Chisholm played in helping to make the political milestone possible decades earlier.
Dr. Williams explained that Chisholm was a “catalyst for change,” and when she looks at what is happening with the Democratic Party and “Hillary Clinton cracking that glass ceiling,” she thought of Chisholm.
Dr. Williams said, “It was Shirley Chisholm who brought us to where we are. First of all, she paved the way for President Obama as well as (for) Hillary Clinton.
“Whatever Hillary Clinton is doing today, she can thank Shirley Chisholm for that.”
Lynch told Martin what often gets lost about Chisholm’s campaign is her “political strategy.” According to Lynch, Chisholm understood leverage and “did not wait her turn.”
“She acted on her conscience and she was a very progressive candidate –she was unbought and unbossed,” added Lynch.
The filmmaker explained that Chisholm secured as many delegates as possible to use as leverage prior to the ’72 convention and said there “was a scramble because there was no frontrunner” at the time.
Chisholm was able to fund her presidential campaign primarily with her savings as a school teacher, a feat that seems unfathomable in this day and age, when candidates raise hundreds of millions of dollars to run for public office.