Mass Mutual and NewsOne join together to present 28 dynamic people that make up the diverse tapestry of Black History. For the entire month of February, Black History Month, we will feature one Person of the Day and highlight their lives and achievements.
Shirley Chisholm (pictured) made history twice in her lifetime, becoming the first African-American congresswoman and later becoming the first African-American to run for the Democratic nomination for the presidential election. Mrs. Chisholm was a vocal activist in both public and private life, using education as a means to expand her horizons.
Chisholm was born November 30, 1924 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her parents were immigrants to the U.S., with her father hailing from Guyana and her mother born in Barbados. At age three, she was sent to Barbados and thrived under the schooling she got there. Chisholm later credited her experience in Barbados as to why she excelled in academics in the states.
Chisholm graduated Brooklyn College in 1946, then obtained her Master’s from Teachers College at Columbia University in 1952. She became the director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center, then went on to work as a consultant for the Division of Child Care in 1959 until 1964.
In 1964, Chisholm won her first elected post as part of the New York State legislature. Then in 1968 she ran for the 12th district congressional seat and won, marking her in the history books. Assigned to the House Agricultural Committee, Chisholm balked at the assignment and asked to be reassigned and caused a bit of a stir. Later, she was assigned to the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, and then moved to the Education and Labor Committee, where she remained until leaving Congress.
Chisholm entered the Democratic primaries to be nominated to run on her party’s ticket as president in 1972, surviving assassination attempts and being hounded in the press. Chisholm knew she was facing unfair odds in the failed bid, but she had the backing of several women’s organizations and support from many within her own party.
Chisholm left Congress and continued to teach, including a stint at Spelman College. She worked alongside Maxine Waters, Dr. Dorthy Height, Julianne Malveaux, Donna Brazile and others to form the African-American Women for Reproductive Freedom organization.
Chisholm retired from teaching and moved to Florida. She passed away in 2005 at the age of 80 after a long life devoted to service and education.
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