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Black History Month Feature: Shirley Chisholm

February 19, 2020

Photograph of Shirley Chisholm. Photo courtesy of

Shirley Chisholm paved the way for African American women in politics, serving seven consecutive terms in the United States House of Representatives and pursuing the presidential nomination on behalf of two major political parties.

Her professors referred to her as “double-handicapped” due to her race and her gender. Upon being elected to a seat in Congress, she became known as “Fighting Shirley” due to her tenacity when it came to passing bills and advocating for equality. This reputation led her to be the second woman and first black woman to serve on the influential House Rules Committee.

However, her campaign for the presidential election was not as successful as her time in Congress. Chisholm faced immense discrimination during her campaign; for example, she was prohibited from participating in the televised primary debates. Though her campaign faced a lack of financing and prejudice, she received 10% of the total delegates during primaries. In 1983, Chisholm retired from Congress with the hope that she would be remembered by history as a catalyst for change for women and African Americans.

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