Shirley Chisholm, First African American Female in Congress


Amid the observances of historic milestones for African Americans in 2013, a signal moment came and went with little fanfare.

But next year her image will grace a U.S. Postal Service stamp as part of the USPS’s Black Heritage Series, the postal service has announced.

It was on Nov. 5, 1968 that Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.

Chisholm, one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, was elected to serve New York’s 12th congressional district from 1969 to 1983, when she announced her retirement.

In 1972, she became the first African American to mount a serious campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the U.S. presidency. She gained 152 first ballot votes for the nomination at the 1972 Democratic Party nomination convention.

As a pioneering Black female politician, Chisholm, Brooklyn, N.Y.- born child of Caribbean immigrants, opened doors for women of color in politics, serving four years in the New York :Legislature before winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Chisholm used her career in politics to fight for social justice, rights and education within the Black culture.

“She was one of the main people that did pave the way for females, particularly African American women,” Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton told the AFRO. “It’s people like her that helps us to do what we are supposed to do in our roles.”

Middleton said the same hurdles women faced during the 1960’s are in play today but Chisholm overcame them to become a major player in the U.S. House for 15 years, retiring as the third ranking Democrat on the House Education and Labor Committee.

Middleton said a number of African American women in politics are still alone and “there are a lot of challenges.”

“Women do work harder, part of it is in the blood of a female, but we definitely are harder workers. We have to really go that extra mile,” Middleton said. “A woman always has to be accessible.”

In 2004, Chisholm said about herself, “I want history to remember me not just as the first Black woman to be elected to Congress, not as the first Black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a Black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself.”

Chisholm died in 2005.

Shirley Chisholm, First African American Female in Congress

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