Hold Up! Before Hillary Clinton, There Was Shirley Chisholm

Art by Kadir Nelson
Source: U.S. Congress and Wikimedia
While many feminists are rejoicing Hillary Clinton's historical nomination for the presidency, I want to remind folks that she's standing on another woman's shoulders. Pres. Barack Obama is standing on this woman's shoulders as well.

In 1972, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm became the first woman to run for president in the Democratic party. She also became the first African-American woman to run for the presidency. And she's the first black woman to serve in Congress. President Obama and Former Secretary of State Clinton were able to reach the ceiling they cracked, because they stand on Shirley Chisholm's shoulders. Pres. Obama honored her posthumously last year with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Brooklyn native's campaign slogan was, "Unbought and Unbossed."

I was disappointed, but not surprised, that Clinton didn't mention Shirley Chisholm. She has not received her due props and accolades for the doors she opened for women and people of color in politics. I read that people tried to assassinate her when she ran for the presidency. Can you imagine being the first and only Black woman in the U.S. Congress in the 1970's during Nixon's presidency???

Chisholm didn't get the nomination. But more people will know about her because Anika Noni Rose is starring and producing a biopic about her.

In her public announcement of her candidacy, Shirley Chisholm said she was a proud African-American and a proud woman. I didn't read about her in U.S. history. I read a little about her in Black history. I had no idea she was a feminist because so much discourse on feminist history leaves out contributions by women of color. We would not have the Obamas, Hillary Clinton, Geraldine Ferraro,--heck even Sarah Palin if weren't for Shirley Chisholm willing to make people think that women and people of color can lead this country.

"If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."
--Shirley Chisholm

"The United States was said not to be ready to elect a Catholic to the Presidency when Al Smith ran in the 1920's. But Smith's nomination may have helped pave the way for the successful campaign John F. Kennedy waged in 1960. Who can tell? What I hope most is that now there will be others who will feel themselves as capable of running for high political office as any wealthy, good-looking white male."
--Shirley Chisholm


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