Pioneering Congresswoman was First African-American Presidential Candidate
November 12, 2008 – Brooklyn, NY – In honor of the 40th anniversary of Shirley Chisholm's historic victory in November 1968 as the first African-American woman elected to the United States Congress, Brooklyn Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery were joined by U.S. Representatives Edolphus Towns and Yvette D. Clarke today to announce the introduction of state legislation to rename the Kings County State Office Building in memory of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.
Shirley Chisholm began her public service career in the New York State Legislature when she was elected to the State Assembly in 1964 to represent the Bedford Stuyvesant community. In 1972, Chisholm became the first African-American to run for president when she competed in the Democratic Primary. Congresswoman Chisholm received 152 first-ballot delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention.
"The political foundation for the historic election of Barack Obama was first laid when Shirley Chisholm took the bold step in 1972 to seek the presidency. As America looks forward to a brighter future, we must never forget to honor those who have helped pave the way," said Assemblyman Jeffries.
"Shirley Chisholm had an unparalleled record of community service," said Senator Montgomery, who represents the neighborhood which Ms. Chisholm represented in the early 1960's. "I am privileged to carry on the exemplary work begun by a woman who chartered a course that created opportunities for the disenfranchised through education and an improved healthcare delivery system. As the first African-American woman elected to Congress, and the first African-American major-party candidate for president, Ms. Chisholm holds a record of significant firsts."
Born Shirley Anita St. Hill in Brooklyn in 1924, Chisholm earned a degree in elementary education from Teachers College at Columbia University where she was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. In 1964 Chisholm was elected to the New York State Legislature and four years later won the seat to represent the
12th Congressional district in the House of Representatives.
"Shirley Chisholm's bold political style allowed her to break through many back doors and glass ceilings, blazing a pathway for generations of women and people of color. To know her as a friend was to witness a rare strength of character, progress in action, and a belief in the potential of a new America," said Rep. Towns.
"Shirley Chisholm came to Congress forty years ago this year to represent the same Congressional District I now represent," said Rep. Clarke. "She was the first black woman and Caribbean American ever to serve in Washington. As a Caribbean American woman, I am incredibly proud to walk in her trailblazing footsteps."
Chisholm was a vocal champion of improved opportunities and fiscal spending for urban and inner-city education, healthcare and other social services. Her many victories are still on display throughout central Brooklyn.
"Congresswoman Chisholm was a legendary political figure in New York City. Her dogged spirit and determined strength can now be felt throughout the country in the victory of President-elect Barack Obama," said Jeffries.
Chisholm wrote two books, most notably Unbought and Unbossed (1970). An independent documentary about her bid for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination received a 2006 Peabody Award. Chisholm died in Florida in January, 2005. She was 80 years old.