Black History Month 2012: Shirley Chisholm's Political Path Still Blazes
As the station continues its coverage of Black History Month, NY1's Jeanine Ramirez looks at the 40th anniversary of Brooklyn native Shirley Chisholm's historic run for U.S. president and filed the following report.
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Brooklynite Shirley Chisholm made it her business to change the face of politics. In the middle of the civil rights movement in the 1960's, she served in the New York Assembly. She went on to become the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968. And then the first to launch a serious bid for president in 1972.
"I don't think the Democratic party was scared of us in any way. I think that what Chisholm did was she opened the door for many of us to interact with senior people in the Democratic party, which was just as important as being the candidate. We were no longer ignored by the national Democratic party," recalled William Howard, Chisholm's former campaign treasurer.
In the halls of Congress, Chisholm's portrait is prominently displayed. There are now 14 black women in Congress including Yvette Clarke who represents part of Chisholm's Brooklyn district.
"It's talked about around here a lot that Shirley Chisholm in some of her hearing rooms didn't even have seat dedicated to her. That she often times had to share seats with other members from the committee. So it's to tell you just how antagonistic it was for her to make her way to Congress," said Clarke.
Chisholm was a champion of civil and women's rights and early childhood education. She graduated from Brooklyn College. The school is putting together the largest collection of Chisholm's archival materials as part of a Brooklyn women's activism study.
"It is important for people to see Chisholm as a role model to see what an ordinary working class woman daughter of immigrants can actually accomplish," said Barbara Winslow, founder of The Shirley Chisholm Project.
Chisholm died in 2005 but many continue to preserve her legacy. William Howard says he helps oversee college scholarships in her name. And he's pushing for her image to be embossed on a postage stamp.