Who Was Shirley Chisholm? The Black Woman Who Ran For President In 1972

By Cyn Felthousen-Post
July 13, 1972, Miami Beach, Florida. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm speaks from podium at Democratic National Convention.

First black woman elected to U.S. Congress, first woman to seek the Democratic party's nomination for President, first black American to run for President -- Shirley Chisholm was a woman of firsts. Elected to Congress in 1968, Chisholm was also one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus. As a legislator, Chisholm sought to improve the lives of the poor, to help women in their quest for equality, and to feed and educate children. The Civil Rights struggles of the early '60s had been about establishing a baseline of rights and respect for all people, and Chisholm represented the next phase -- legislating, negotiating, governing. Martin Luther King had a dream of equality for all, but he did not personally dream of being President of the United States. 

Shirley Chisholm did.

"I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud," she said when she announced her Presidential run on January 25, 1972. "I am not the candidate of the women's movement of this country, although I am a woman and equally proud of that. I am the candidate of the people and my presence before you symbolizes a new era in American political history."