Chisholm '72

PBS Premiere: Feb. 7, 2005Check the broadcast schedule »

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Chisholm '72 - Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm

An obituary in the New York Times (registration required) quoted Chisholm as saying, as she left Washington, that she did not want to go down in history as "'the nation's first black congresswoman' or, as she put it, 'the first black woman congressman.' 'I'd like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts,' she said. 'That's how I'd like to be remembered.'" At her death, the Reverend Jesse Jackson called her a "woman of great courage." Al Sharpton stated: "She broke the barrier down for black women in the highest circles of power in Washington and she did it with dignity and did it effectively and did it with no fear." As Robert E. Williams of the NAACP in Florida, where she retired, said, "She was our Moses that opened the Red Sea for us."

Read more about her life and legacy in an article from The New York Times on reflections from Brooklyn (archive, registration and fee required), as well as obituaries in The Washington Post and the New York Daily News. Listen to audio of The Brian Lehrer Show (scroll down to "Passings") with filmmaker Shola Lynch and Congressman Major Owens, read the transcript of a live chat with Shola Lynch on Washington Post Live Online from January 3, and find other recent news about Chisholm.

After the 1972 Democratic Convention, Shirley Chisholm returned to her seat in Congress. She continued to serve her Brooklyn, NY neighborhood, Bedford Stuyvesant, for ten years, retiring from Congress in 1982.

Over the last two decades, Mrs. Chisholm wrote articles and travelled across the country speaking to audiences about the same issues she highlighted during her 1972 campaign — education, housing and healthcare. These issues became her life's work. She felt that black children in particular are still far behind in terms of education and continued to work for improvements in the US educational system.

She was quoted as saying that she experienced far more discrimination over the years as a woman than she did as an African American. Mrs. Chisholm felt there had been a great deal of progress over the past 30 years for women in politics, but that "we still need more progress."