Black women who make history are often written out of it.Ijeoma Oluo, Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America
I especially love this chapter in Ijeoma Oluo’s book because she talks about one of American history’s oft-neglected public servants, Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005). She was the first Black woman elected to the United States House of Representatives, serving New York’s 12th congressional district from 1969 to 1983. She was also the first Black American to run for President of the United States. She sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 1972 presidential election and while she did not get the nomination, she changed the landscape of American politics forever.
Hers was a grassroots activism centering the interests and issues of all Americans, especially those occupying marginalized identities and living in communities disenfranchised by the white male elite. She was able to bring together a broad coalition of people to fight toward a more just and perfect Union, the one idealized by the Founders who failed to see people who looked like Chisholm as fully-human.
The legacy of Shirley Chisholm reverberates throughout American politics. She paved the way for other BIPOC women who wanted to run for public office by providing them with a framework showing it was possible. Yvonne Brathwaite. Barbara Jordan. Maxine Waters. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ayanna Pressley. Kamala Harris. Shirley Chisholm paved the way for all of them.
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