Way Before Hillary or Obama, this Black Woman Ran for President

Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968, representing New York’s 12th Congressional District. She was an educator before she ran for office, directing a nursery and child care center. When she ran for Congress, it was as a liberal voice for marginalized people. Her slogan was, “Unbought and Unbossed.” If she were running today, it seems clear that Beyoncé would do her theme music.

As a member of congress, Chisholm helped secure funding for women and children in poverty and, with Congresswoman Bella Abzug, introduced a bill to provide $10 billion in federal funds for child care services by 1975. (Although a version of the bill passed through the House and Senate,  President Nixon eventually vetoed it.)

But the best part of her groundbreaking career is that in 1972, she ran for President. She was a staunch feminist and advocate for minorities and people in poverty. She said, “I ran for the presidency, despite hopeless odds, to demonstrate sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo.” Though she didn’t make it past the primaries, Chisholm won the right to speak from the main podium at the Democratic Convention in Miami and rose to national recognition.

Finally, in 2015, we have a black president. But we often forget that 43 years ago, it was Shirley Chisholm who instigated that piece of progress. She was tired of America’s collective procrastination. “I ran because most people thought the country was not ready for a black candidate, not ready for a woman candidate,” Chisholm said. “Someday — it was time in 1972 to make that someday come.” 


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