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Shirley Chisholm

Source: Pictorial Parade / Getty

Just under half a century ago, America’s first Black Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm broke boundaries and created even more history with her 1972 presidential bid. Not only was she the first African American major-party candidate in our nation’s history, but she was also the Democratic Party’s first woman to run for its presidential nomination.

On July 13 of that year, Black Facts reported that she “became the first African American Presidential nominee.” She garnered 152 votes from the delegates polled, which was about 10 percent of the total — a more than respectable feat considering the racism, gender discrimination, and lack of funding her campaign, also known as the “Chisholm Trail,” faced.

Born on November 30, 1924 to Caribbean immigrants, the pioneering politician was a Brooklyn native and the eldest of four daughters. She graduated cum laude from Brooklyn College in 1946 and initially worked as a nursery school teacher before getting her master’s degree in 1951 from Columbia University. Climbing the ladder of the New York City education world, she also became a member of chapters of the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, the Urban League, and Bed-Stuy’s Democratic Party Club.

Chisolm landed her seat in the New York State Legislature in 1964 (the second African American to do so), and secured her seat in Congress only four years later in 1986, granting her the nickname “Fighting Shirley.”

Womans History noted her motto, “Unbossed and Unbought, which later became the title of her autobiography, illustrated her “outspoken advocacy for women and minorities during her seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

After retiring from Congress in the early 80s, she went on to resume her work as an educator by being a professor at Mount Holyoke College and co-founding the National Political Congress of Black Women. She passed away on January 1, 2005.

Poignantly, she shared at one point: “I want to be remembered as a woman … who dared to be a catalyst of change.”

Being a representative and continuous champion of the intersectionality where race and gender meet, Chisholm has been getting a lot of Hollywood’s attention within the last couple of years. In 2020, Uzo Aduba depicted her in Hulu’s Mrs. America, and currently, there are currently two biopics in the works on her story. One of them, titled The Fighting Shirley Chisholm, will star Danai Gurira. The other is set to be played and co-produced by Regina King.

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