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Before Hillary Clinton Made History With Her Nomination Shirley Chisholm Blazed a Trail

Remembering the first African American female to seek nomination for presidency with a major political party

ShirleyChisholmStampIt’s official: Hillary Clinton is the first woman presidential nominee in history. As democrats and Americans celebrate Clinton’s accomplishment as being the first woman to secure the backing of a major political party, no woman is more deserving of remembrance during this time than Shirley Chisholm. She is a historical figure with an unprecedented political legacy.

Unbought and Unbosssed

If you don’t know your history, Chisholm was the first African American woman ever elected to Congress in 1968, representing New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, until her retirement in 1983. Her election to Congress was a prime example of the strength of the black vote, as a result of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

After being elected to Congress, in 1972, she became the first African American to seek nomination for presidency with a major political party. A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chisholm boldly ran for the Democratic presidential nomination under the slogan “Unbought and Unbossed.”

[Related: Gloria Steinem On Black Women: They Invented The Feminist Movement]

She later wrote of her unsuccessful bid, “The next time a woman runs, or a black, or a Jew, or anyone from a group that the country is ‘not ready’ to elect to its highest office, I believe that he or she will be taken seriously from the start… I ran because somebody had to do it first.”

Women’s Liberation

Chisholm also said that women in this country must become revolutionaries. Indeed, she left a strong legacy as an advocate for minority rights and women’s liberation. The late, Ohio Congresswoman, Stephanie Tubbs Jones—a democratic representative for eight years, before her untimely death at age 58—once told me, “If there were no Shirley Chisholm, there would be no Stephanie Tubbs Jones.”

Chisholm died at the age of 80 in 2005. At the time of her passing, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said Chisholm was “one of the founding mothers leading the modern day, black political movement,” paving the way for Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, and all those yet to come who will run for U.S. President. Lewis told Black Enterprise, “American politics will always be indebted to Shirley Chisholm for extending its reach beyond the mainstream.”

Original BE Board Member

It can’t go without noting that Chisholm was also a member of the original Black Enterprise Board of Advisors when the magazine was founded in 1970 by Earl G. Graves, Sr. She joined the board along with luminaries and business pioneers Henry Parks, Founder of Parks Sausage Co.; Freedom National Bank’s William Hudgins; as well as Civil Rights and political leaders John Lewis and Julian Bond, to help establish the magazine as a force for African American business development and financial empowerment.

Together, they wrote in the magazine’s premier issue, “We feel that the health—indeed survival—of this nation will depend upon the extent to which our ethnic minorities will participate and profit from its economic system.”



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