Today’s blog by Dyana Saad is about Shirley Chisholm, the first African American and first woman to run for presidency. She was endorsed by the Black Panther Party. But not many people know of her. During October, which is both Black History Month and marks the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party, we share her history.
Dyana Saad is a researcher of slavery and Black history, who studied at UCLan and worked extensively with the Institute of Black Atlantic Research. She writes:
“As we approach the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party, and the upcoming American presidential elections, I found it fitting to celebrate an iconic trailblazer; a figure who was so greatly supported by the Black Panther Party, and a figure who deserves more attention than history afforded her – Shirley Chisholm.
“When we look back at American politics, we tend to assume that Barrack Obama was the first African American president, and that Hillary Clinton is in line to be the first female president. However, long before these two figures, Chisholm was attempting to break these boundaries. In 1968, Chisholm became the first African American congresswoman, serving seven terms in the House of Representatives. After only four years in congress, Chisholm become the first African American woman to run for presidency, as a candidate of the Democratic Party. Her candidacy was endorsed by the Black Panther Party who described her as:
‘the best social critic of America’s injustices to run for presidential office,’
and called on:
‘every Black, poor and progressive person in the country to help elect her’.
Chisholm 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.’
Being Black and being a woman in congress, in the midst of the Civil Rights era, presented Chisholm with many challenges, which she did not let break her. Chisholm wanted to create change and she did not let her gender or race stop her from aiming for the highest office of government to do so. It is recorded that she went to the extent of suing to ensure that she was not left out of televised debates. Her career was challenged endlessly, and she was even a survivor of a number of assassination attempts throughout her campaign, and although she lost the Democratic vote to George McGovern, she is still a winner in the eyes of many. Chisholm inspires us by showing us that we should not back down simply because we are ‘different’ to the norm, and that we should stand up for what we believe in, no matter the boundaries. She once fearlessly said that:
‘I have no intention of just sitting quietly and observing. I intend to speak out immediately in order to focus on the nation’s problems’.
“She just did this.
“From being one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, an organisation that represents black members of congress, to fighting for the welfare and education of minority and underprivileged groups, Chisholm worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone was treated justly and fairly. In 2015, Shirley Chisholm was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, who stated that her:
‘example transcends her life’.
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