How Shirley Chisholm Paved the Way for Hillary Clinton


This article is labeled for permission to be reused from the National Urban League.

To Be Equal #27

August 17, 2016


Marc H. Morial
President and CEO

National Urban League

“Women in this country must become revolutionaries. We must refuse to accept the old, the traditional roles and stereotypes…We must replace the old, negative thoughts about our femininity with positive thoughts and positive action affirming it, and more. But we must also remember that we will be breaking with tradition, and so we must prepare ourselves educationally, economically, and psychologically in order that we will be able to accept and bear with the sanctions that society will immediately impose upon us.” – Shirley Chisholm

The nation has marked the historic occasion of the first woman in American history to win the Presidential nomination for a major political party.

While Hillary Clinton has come further than any female presidential candidate, she is not the first. Victoria Woodhull ran as the candidate for the Equal Rights Party in 1872. Margaret Chase Smith challenged Barry Goldwater for the Republican nomination in 1964. More recently, Pat Schroeder in 1988 and Carol Moseley Braun in 2004 vied for the Democratic nomination.

But the most historically significant forerunner to Hillary Clinton was Shirley Chisholm, the Brooklyn-born trailblazer who was also the nation’s first African American congresswoman.

The daughter of working-class immigrants from the Caribbean, Chisholm became interested in politics while serving as the director of a child day care center and an educational consultant for the New York City Division of Day Care. She served three years on the New York State Assembly, before running for Congress in 1968 with the slogan “Unbought and unbossed”.

“My greatest political asset,” Chisholm said, “which professional politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which comes all kinds of things one shouldn’t always discuss for reasons of political expediency.”

Chisholm hired only women for her staff, half of whom were African Americans. “Of my two handicaps, being female put many more obstacles in my path than being black,” she said.

She announced her candidacy for president at a Baptist church in Brooklyn. In an article about her candidacy, the Associated Press wrote, “Ironically, her major headache seems to come from black politicians.”

“They think that I am trying to take power away from them,” she said. “The black man must step forward. But that doesn’t mean the black woman must step back. While they’re rapping and snapping, I’m mapping,” she said.

She competed in 14 states, winning 28 delegates to the convention. As a symbolic gesture, candidate Hubert Humphrey released his 83 black delegates to cast their votes for Chisholm. With the votes of several other delegates at that contentious convention, Chisolm finished fourth in a field of 13, with 152 delegates.

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Source: Black Enterprise