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Shirley Chisholm

The Last Interview

Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968 after campaigning under the slogan, “Unbought and Unbossed,” and her political career never swerved from that principle–she was fearless, undaunted, brilliant, and always first a foremost a servant to nobody but the people.

When Shirley Chisholm announced her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, she became the first black candidate for a major party’s nomination just four years after she had become the first ever black woman in Congress. In typical fashion, she acknowledged the landmark but knew it was beside the point: “I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and I’m equally proud of that.” What she emphasized was: “I am the candidate of the people of America.”

Her legacy has only further demonstrated her profoundly humane politics and her undaunted and tireless work ethic. In a set of interviews that extend from the first major profile by Susan Brownmiller to her final interview documenting her life and reflecting on her legacy, Shirley Chisholm reveals her disciplined and demanding childhood, the expectations on her placed by her family and the public, her tireless advocacy for the poorest and most disadvantaged in the halls of government, and the darkening course of American history. But on her legacy, Chisholm had one priority: “I’d like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts. That’s how I’d like to be remembered.”

Shirley Chisholm was born to Caribbean immigrants in Brooklyn, New York. She ran for Congress in the newly drawn 12th District of New York in 1968 and became the first ever black woman to serve in Congress after an upset, grassroots-powered victory. She went on to run for president in 1972. While in Congress, she was instrumental in creating the national school lunch program, expanding the food stamp program, and establishing the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. She passed away on January 1st, 2005.

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