Shirley Chisholm for President

May 4, 2020

For me it was when Shirley Chisholm announced her presidency of the United States. So she was the first African American, period, that I really saw speak, and speak so intelligent and eloquently. I met her in person, maybe two blocks from home. She was in front of the pizza shop. Then, a lot of the local politicians–David Dinkins, Denny Ferrell–would go and eat pizza there because they lived, maybe a block and a half from there on Riverside Drive. And she came in.

In the beginning, I didn’t pay attention to her speaking, but she spoke with such power I had to take notice even as a young girl. I was like, wow, this lady is intelligent. She’s just speaking so you know eloquently and intelligently.

And she took her time with the young people and asked them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and “You can be anything,” and was just encouraging.

And she said she was running for president. Prior to that there wasn’t that many black people that spoke out. And then when I came home and I asked my parents, “I met Shirley Chisholm. I’ve seen her on the TV. Who is she?”

And the first thing my father says to me is, “If you want to know, well what do we do when we want knowledge? We go to the library and find out. You write a book report and then we’ll talk about it.” I was like, “No, but I want to know.” Then he said, “If you want to know now then you go to the library, like I said, and see if you can find some information and then we’ll talk about it. But first try and find out on your own.” They always used to send us to the library to find out our own information, then we’d sit down as a family and talk about things.

That was my first historical big event that I lived through. And after that, I started following things a little bit. I said, “In our lifetime, we will never see a black person in the White House.” And to live through Obama was something historical for me because the first historical event that was important to me was Shirley Chisholm running for the president.

Her slogan was, Unbought and Unbossed, and the way she spoke, you could kind of feel that that’s how she was. That she didn’t have any tie to anybody. She was a little woman in stature, but she had a big powerful voice.

Before Hillary Clinton, there was Shirley Chisholm - BBC News
Shirley Chisholm announced her historic run for the White House in 1972. The slogan, “unbought and unbossed” appeared on Chisholm’s campaign posters, one of which resides in the collections of the National Museum of African American of History and Culture. Source: Smithsonian Magazine