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P.O.V.'s 'CHISHOLM '72 — Unbought & Unbossed' Recalls Groundbreaking Presidential Bid
Shirley Chisholm, First Black Woman to Run, Defied Expectations, Dared to Mount Insurgent Campaign
Sundance Film Festival Official Selection Makes National Broadcast Premiere On PBS's P.O.V. Series February 7, 2005, During Black History Month
An Independent Television Service (ITVS) and National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) Co-presentation
Produced in Association with American Documentary, Inc./P.O.V.
1972 was an extraordinary year. Richard Nixon was president, running for his second, ill-fated term. The voting age had just changed from 21 to 18, and millions of new voters were expected at the polls. The Vietnam War was in full swing, as were anti-war protests, a burgeoning women's movement, and the rise of the Black Panther Party. Into the center of this maelstrom — shocking the conventional political wisdom — stepped Shirley Chisholm, a determined, rather prim and unapologetically progressive black woman with a powerful message: Exercise the full measure of your citizenship; vote and assert your rights. Quoting Frederick Douglass, Mrs. Chisholm liked to remind her audience that "power concedes nothing without demand or struggle."
Announcing her candidacy for president on the evening news, Walter Cronkite quipped, "A new hat — rather, a bonnet — was tossed into the presidential race today." As revealed in CHISHOLM '72 — Unbought & Unbossed, a new feature documentary having its national broadcast premiere on public television's P.O.V. series, this first-ever run by a woman and person of color for presidential nomination was no laughing matter. Nor was it a polite exercise in symbolic electioneering. The New York Democratic congresswoman's bid engendered strong, and sometimes bigoted opposition, setting off currents that affect American politics and social perceptions to this day. Shirley Chisholm died at the age of 80 on January 1, 2005, at her home in Florida.
CHISHOLM '72, directed by Shola Lynch, will be broadcast as part of the 2005 P.O.V. series on Monday, February 7 at 10 p.m. on PBS. (Check local listings.) Now entering its 18th season, the award-winning P.O.V. is American television's longest-running independent documentary series.
Featuring stirring archival footage, period music, interviews with supporters, opponents and observers, and Chisholm's own commentary — then and now — CHISHOLM '72 is a remarkable recollection of a campaign that broke new ground in politics, and truly reached out to 'the people.' Among those interviewed are author/activist Amiri Baraka (then known as LeRoi Jones), Black Panther founder Bobby Seale, authors Susan Brownmiller and Octavia Butler, former Congressmen Reverend Walter Fauntroy and Ronald Dellums, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), who got her start in politics with Chisholm's campaign, and journalist/historian Paula Giddings.
Chisholm championed the causes of the poor, the young, minorities, gays, women, and other marginalized Americans. In doing so, she prefigured Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition campaigns, not only in substance but also in style. Chisholm saw the presidential race itself as an opportunity to draw people to politics who traditionally did not participate. In her words, "I ran for the presidency, despite hopeless odds, to demonstrate sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo." In a race with 12 other candidates, Chisholm's ultimate goal was to reach the Democratic National Convention in 1972 with a strong show of support.
At a time when Americans were just beginning to contemplate the possibility of a black man running for president, Chisholm was black and female. (The first woman to run for president was Victoria Woodhull, who ran on the Equal Rights Party ticket and lost to incumbent President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872.) CHISHOLM '72 describes Chisholm's formative years, from modest roots in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and a childhood in Barbados, to winning election to the New York State Assembly and then, in 1968, to become the first black woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress. Although she was no stranger to controversy, the documentary reveals the visceral opposition and blatant disregard the establishment and the media showed the Congresswoman's candidacy.
Many reporters assumed she had no chance of winning and felt she was a spoiler. Feminists, who agreed entirely with Chisholm's politics, preferred a different strategy, looking to Senator George McGovern as the realistic Democratic candidate. (McGovern eventually won the nomination.)
All the while, Chisholm remained the "Unbought and Unbossed" candidate, poised and determined to direct the debate and news coverage of her candidacy to her stands on education, employment, health care, and the rights of minorities, women, and gays to full participation in American life. She won a Federal Court order to break the front-runners' lock on televised debates, winning the chance to talk directly to a national television audience. Chisholm, in fact, struck a populist progressive chord with many Americans. Managing surprisingly strong showings in some state primaries, she carried 151 delegates at the severely divided 1972 Democratic Convention in Miami and won the right to speak from the main podium.
"I had something important to explain," recalls Chisholm about her historic speech. "I ran because somebody had to do it first. I ran because most people thought the country was not ready for a black candidate, not ready for a woman candidate. Someday — it was time in 1972 to make that someday come."
CHISHOLM '72 recaptures the times and spirit of a watershed event in American politics, when a black woman dared to take an equal place on the presidential dais.
"Our goal was to make a documentary as passionate and powerful as Chisholm herself," says director and co-producer Shola Lynch. "Her story is an important reminder of the power of a dedicated individual to make a difference." It also reminds us that the country belongs to each of us only if we dare to claim our place in it.
About The Filmmakers:
Director & Producer
CHISHOLM '72 — Unbought & Unbossed is Shola Lynch's directorial debut. She has learned the craft of documentary making on the job. Lynch has worked with Ken Burns and Florentine Films on the Peabody Award-winning Frank Lloyd Wright and the ten-part JAZZ series. She has also worked on the Emmy Award-winning Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, an HBO Sports documentary that was included in the last hour of the four-part series on race in America, Matters of Race, which aired on PBS in 2003.
Lynch grew up in New York City, where she currently lives. She was part of the PBS family at an early age, as a regular on Sesame Street from ages 2-6. As a nationally ranked track athlete in the 800m and 1500m, she pursued Olympic aspirations with the Lady Long Horns at the University of Texas while completing a Liberal Arts Honors B.A. Her most important life lesson derives from an athletic career that spanned 15 years of national and international competition. "The lesson is not one of being a champion but the payoff of perseverance in the pursuit of a goal," she says.
Lynch also has a master's degree in American history from the University of California, Riverside that culminated in a thesis and an exhibition at the California Museum of Photography titled "How Far Have We Come? Past and Present Images of African Americans." She is currently developing her next documentary project.
An award-winning filmmaker, Phil Bertelsen works in both fiction and non-fiction. Most recently he produced and directed "EveryOther," a social satire about racial identity that was featured in the PBS series Matters of Race. His last film, The Sunshine, won numerous awards and is included as part of the Full Frame Documentary DVD Collection. Bertelsen also wrote and directed Outside Looking In, examining transracial adoption in America and airing on public television. Additionally, he was a Writer/Director fellow at the Sundance Filmmakers Lab and has an M.F.A. from New York University where he won a Student Academy Award for his dramatic short Around the Time. Bertelsen is currently developing a feature screenplay.
Director: Shola Lynch
Producer: Shola Lynch
Producer: Phil Bertelsen Editor: Sam Pollard
Cinematographer: Sandi Sissel
Funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. Additional Funding Provided by New York State Council on the Arts, Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media, Lucia Woods Lindley, Rubin Foundation, Vinmont Foundation, and Camille and William Cosby, Bette Midler, Oprah Winfrey and Halle Berry.
Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the weekly series Independent Lens on PBS. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have helped revitalize the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting www.itvs.org. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American People. CHISHOLM '72 — Unbought & Unbossed was produced in association with the Independent Television Service.
NBPC is a non-profit media service organization devoted to the production, distribution, and promotion of diverse films and videos about African Americans and the experiences of the African Diaspora. NBPC funds, commissions, acquires and awards talented makers of quality African American film and video projects. Selected programs reflect a variety of subjects and production styles. Projects unlikely to appear on the big Hollywood screen are encouraged, especially those which offer a more realistic, historically accurate, diverse, and non-stereotypical picture of the Black World. NBPC funds every phase of the production process — i.e., research and development, production, post-production and outreach. Film and video projects that are selected present Black people in primary roles, in front of and/or behind the camera. Since 1979, NBPC has provided more than five million dollars in grants to both independent and station-based producers.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, develops educational public radio, television and online services for the American people. The Corporation is the industry's largest single source of funds for national public television and radio program development and production. CPB, a grant-making organization, funds more than 1,000 public radio and television stations.
Entering its 18th season on PBS, P.O.V. is the first and longest-running series on television to feature the work of America's most innovative documentary storytellers. Bringing over 200 award-winning films to millions nationwide, and now a new Web-only series, P.O.V.'s Borders, P.O.V. has pioneered the art of presentation and outreach using independent non-fiction media to build new communities in conversation about today's most pressing social issues.
P.O.V. Interactive (www.pbs.org/pov)
P.O.V.'s award-winning Web department produces our Web-only showcase for interactive storytelling, P.O.V.'s Borders. It also produces a Web site for every P.O.V. presentation, extending the life of P.O.V. films through community-based and educational applications, focusing on involving viewers in activities, information and feedback on the issues. In addition, www.pbs.org/pov houses our unique Talking Back feature, filmmaker interviews and viewer resources, and information on the P.O.V. archives as well as myriad special sites for previous P.O.V. broadcasts.
Major funding for P.O.V. is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Educational Foundation of America, PBS and public television viewers. Funding for P.O.V.'s Borders: Environment (www.pbs.org/pov/borders) is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. P.O.V. is presented by a consortium of public television stations including KCET/Los Angeles, WGBH/Boston, and WNET/New York. Cara Mertes is executive director of P.O.V., which is a division of American Documentary, Inc.
Support for P.O.V. is provided by Starbucks Coffee Company. Starbucks has a rich tradition of supporting the arts and independent film and celebrates the fact that numerous points of view can be discussed over a good cup of coffee. Starbucks is committed to offering the highest quality coffee in grocery stores nationwide.
American Documentary, Inc. (www.americandocumentary.org)
American Documentary, Inc. (AmDoc) is a multimedia company dedicated to creating, identifying and presenting contemporary stories that express opinions and perspectives rarely featured in mainstream media outlets. Through two divisions, P.O.V. and Active Voice, AmDoc is a catalyst for public culture, developing collaborative strategic engagement activities around socially relevant content on television, on line and in community settings. These activities are designed to trigger action, from dialogue and feedback, to educational opportunities and community participation. CHISHOLM '72 — Unbought & Unbossed is a co-production of American Documentary, Inc.
TAPE REQUESTS: Please note that a broadcast version of this film is available upon request, as the film may be edited to comply with new FCC regulations.