Barbados and Guyana claim her. Brooklyn seems to own her. But regardless of her roots, history has anchored Shirley A. Chisholm as the child of Caribbean immigrant who distinguished herself beyond the limitations placed against her being a woman, Black and ambitious. Scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Shirley Chisholm on his list of 100 Greatest African-Americans. Although much is often muttered, here are 10 things worth amplifying during Black History Month.
1.Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York to mother Ruby Seale, from Christ Church, Barbados, and father Charles Christopher St. Hill from Guyana.
2. Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to Congress. Elected in the 12 congressional district of Brooklyn, she joined the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 as one of its founding members.
3.She was the first Black woman to run for president of the USA.
4.All those Chisholm hired for her office were women, half of them Black. The US representative said that during her New York legislative career, she had faced much more discrimination because she was a woman than because she was Black.
5.Chisholm created controversy when she visited rival and avowed racist George Wallace of Alabama. Despite criticisms she visited him while he was hospitalized soon after his shooting in May 1972, during the 1972 presidential primary campaign. Several years later, when Chisholm worked on a bill to give domestic workers the right to a minimum wage, Wallace helped gain votes of enough Southern congressmen to push the legislation through the House.
6.Chisholm was married to Conrad Chisholm, a Jamaican private investigator, from 1949 to 1977. In 1978, she married Arthur Hardwick, Jr., a Buffalo businessman who died in 1986. Chisholm had no children and moved to Florida when she retired.
7.In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated the retired congresswoman to the ambassadorship to Jamaica. She declined service citing poor health. That same year she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
8.In February 2005, “Shirley Chisholm ‘72: Unbought and Unbossed,” a documentary film aired on U.S public television. It chronicled Chisholm’s 1972 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. It was directed and produced by independent, African-American filmmaker Shola Lynch. The film was featured at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004. On April 9, 2006, the film was announced as a winner of a Peabody Award.
9.In 2010, the first African-American governor of New York State, Governor David A. Paterson announced that the 13-story, State office building located at 55 Hanson Place in Brooklyn in Fort Greene, Brooklyn was renamed the Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building in honor of the late Congresswoman. A plaque commemorating the achievements of Congresswoman Chisholm was unveiled at a dedication ceremony held there. It is only one of two state office buildings in the city. The other is the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building in Harlem.
10.A post office in Bedford-Stuyvesant named The Shirley A. Chisholm Station, at 1915 Fulton St., is named in honor of the trailblazer. On Jan. 31, 2014, a first-day-issue of a postage stamp bearing the image of the former congresswoman introduced the newest addition to the Black Heritage Series of postage stamps issued by the United States Postal Service. Issued in the Forever series of fixed-price postage stamps, the USPS held a ceremony at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall to launch the historic philatelic release.
Recommended viewing during Black History Month…
”Sing Your Song” is a testament to the activism of Jamaica’s son Harry Belafonte. Now available on DVD, the documentary is well-worth viewing, this month or anytime.
”Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners” a film by Shola Lynch. The film released April 5, 2013 is nominated for an NAACP award in the outstanding documentary film category. Davis was Jan. 26, 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama and her story is blurred by the fact the FBI haunted and pursued her for being an accessory to a crime she pleaded not guilty. After a relentless pursuit of the California professor, Davis was caught in New York. On Feb. 22, TV One will broadcast the awards presentation at 8:00 p.m. The running time for the documentary is 1 hr 40 min.
Lynch’s work is much revered for its in-depth details. Check out her dynamic attention to detail in the film she made about U.S. Rep. Chisholm. “Shirley Chisholm ’72: Un-bought & Un-bossed” pays tribute to a dynamic daughter of the Caribbean and reveals the state of affairs in America during the Civil Rights era. Lynch’s documentary on U.S. Rep. Chisholm is now on DVD.