When people thought of politicians in the 1960s, surely images of an African-American woman did not come to mind. But Shirley Chisholm was just that. Chisholm became the first African-American Congresswoman in 1968, representing New York State in the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, Nov. 30, we celebrate Chisholm’s birthday and accomplishments.
Shirley Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1924. At an early age, her immigrant parents instilled in her the power of education. She was sent to live in Barbados with her maternal grandmother at the age of three and attended strict British schools while there. She returned to the U.S seven years later.
Chisholm would later thank her parents for her Bajan education as it would serve as the foundation for her passion for education. She graduated with honors from the Brooklyn College in 1946 and immediately embarked on her career as a teacher, eventually obtaining her Master’s Degree in education from Columbia University.
After a host of positions working for New York State, Chisholm shocked the nation when she became the first Black congresswoman in 1968, kicking off seven terms in the U.S House of Representatives. At first she was assigned to the House Forestry Committee, but demanded she be reassigned to a more challenging position and she was put on the Education and Labor Committee.
Chisholm used her role in Congress to help found the original Black Caucus in 1969, and if that wasn’t enough, she made history again in 1972 when she became the first major-party African-American candidate to make a bid for the U.S. presidency when she ran for the Democratic nomination. Chisholm died on Jan. 1, 2005, at the age of 80, but her legacy is forever etched in American history.
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(Photo: Don Hogan Charles/New York Times Co./Getty Images)
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