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Shirley Chisholm
Shirley announcing candidacy for presidential nomination.
Photo: Library of Congress

Shirley Chisholm

1924 - 2005

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 provides a catalyst for change in the political establishment. Although a small number of African-Americans hold Congressional seats before her, Chisholm is the first black woman to be elected to the body. She is also the first woman, and the first person of color, to be considered a serious candidate for President.

A specialist in early education, Chisholm wins her first campaign in 1964. In '68, she makes the jump from state to national government, defeating Republican civil rights leader James Farmer to win a seat in the House of Representatives.

When it's time to select a Majority Leader, Chisholm votes for the white candidate, not the black. As a reward, she receives an important seat on the Education and Labor Committee, where her background in early education is a valuable asset.

I ran because somebody had to do it first.

Shirley Chisholm

Chisholm takes a determined and difficult run at the 1972 presidential nomination for the Democratic Party. Chisholm even has to file a complaint with the FCC to force her way into a TV debate. Her base of support is ethnically diverse, and includes the fledgling National Organization for Women. She doesn't win any primaries, but does outlast several contenders.

At the party convention, Chisholm receives 152 delegate votes before she withdraws from the competition. On election night, Republican incumbent Nixon easily defeats Democratic nominee George McGovern. But Chisholm achieves her main objectives: putting the concept in front of the electorate, and inspiring future candidacies by women and minorities.

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