Shirley Chisholm: Paving the Road to the White House

Chisholm Makes History as First African American Woman to Make Serious Bid for Presidency – 1972

The historic importance of the 2008 presidential race is undeniable. This year marks the first time that an African American has won the nomination of a major party and the first time a woman has been a viable candidate for United States Presidency. In looking at what made these strides possible it is important to remember Shirley Chisholm and her own historic race for the presidency in 1972.

As the first African-American woman elected to United States Congress, many eyes were on Chisholm to see how this former teacher and New York State representative would fit in to the predominately white, male environment of Capitol Hill. When she announced her candidacy for the presidency in January of 1972, many people thought it was a joke. Still, Chisholm campaigned across the country, talking with people and making her stance on issues known. Though she admitted that she never expected to win the White House, Chisholm was determined to run because she knew someone had to be the first to pave the way for others. 

“I am a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. I make that statement proudly, in the full knowledge that, as a black person and as a female person, I do not have a chance of actually gaining that office in this election year. I make that statement seriously, knowing that my candidacy itself can change the face and future of American politics – that it will be important to the needs and hopes of every one of you – even though, in the conventional sense, I will not win.” – Shirley Chisholm, June 4, 1972

To learn more about Shirley Chisholm through text, photos and audio clips visit the Avoice Women of the CBC Exhibit.

Visit the Avoice Virtual Library for resources on the history of African Americans in Congress

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