She was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1924.
In 1968, Shirley Chisholm made history by becoming the United States’ first African-American congresswoman, beginning the first of seven terms in the House of Representatives. After initially being assigned to the House Forestry Committee, she shocked many by demanding reassignment. She was placed on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, eventually graduating to the Education and Labor Committee. In 1969, Chisholm became one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Chisholm went on to make history yet again, becoming the first major-party African-American candidate to make a bid for the U.S. presidency when she ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972. A champion of minority education and employment opportunities throughout her tenure in Congress, Chisholm was also a vocal opponent of the U.S. military draft. After leaving Congress in 1983, she taught at Mount Holyoke College and was popular on the lecture circuit.
Chisholm was married to Conrad Chisholm from 1949 to 1977. She wed Arthur Hardwick Jr. in 1986. She authored two books during her lifetime, Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973).
Chisholm died on January 1, 2005, at the age of 80, in Ormond Beach (near Daytona Beach), Florida.
“She was our Moses that opened the Red Sea for us,” Robert E. Williams, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Flagler County, said of Chisholm in an interview with The Associated Press (January 2, 2005). William Howard, Chisholm’s longtime campaign treasurer, expressed similar sentiments. “Anyone that came in contact with her, they had a feeling of a careness,” Howard said, “and they felt that she was very much a part of each individual as she represented her district.”
Three of her quotes:
“If I can help to bring about the change and move in that direction, I will have made my contribution.”
“My greatest political asset, which professional politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which come all kinds of things one shouldn’t always discuss for reasons of political expediency.”
“Service is the rent that you pay for room on this earth.”