There have always been and always will be people who step boldly from the shadows of their environment, regardless of the risks or the criticisms, and challenge what is known and accepted. Shirley Chisholm was one of those individuals. In 1968, she became the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, representing New York’s 12th Congressional District. In 1972, she went even further, when she made a concerted effort to secure the Democratic National Party’s presidential nomination. It induced the usual cacophony of snickers and eye-rolling from the party elite, but Chisholm remained undeterred.
“I am not the candidate of black America,” she noted in her official candidacy announcement in January of 1972, “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 equally proud of that. I am the candidate of the people and my presence before you symbolizes a new era in American political history.”
Despite an underfunded campaign and struggling to be taken seriously by anyone in the political world, Chisholm persevered. She didn’t even come close to earning the Democratic Party’s nomination, but her efforts paved the way for countless numbers of future non-White and female political candidates.
Chisholm passed away in 2005 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom a decade later.