Her Grandmother's Teachings Inspired Her Political Rise

Shirley Chisholm Black and White Portrait
Abeni Jones
November 4, 2021

#1: She was partially raised in Barbados.

At age five, she went to the island to live with her grandmother. Grandma instilled in her a deep self-love: “Granny gave me strength, dignity, and love. I learned from an early age that I was somebody."

#2: She didn’t intend to go into politics.

Chisholm’s first career was in education. But she saw how necessary it was for her district to have real support – so she ran for New York State Assembly, won, and started her political rise.

#3: She walked the talk.

Her time in congress was about uplifting women and people of color – and she proved it by hiring an all-woman staff, half of whom were Black women.

#4: She built bridges across differences.

Known for being “unbought and unbossed,” she nevertheless visited openly racist congressman George Wallace in the hospital. Later, that relationship helped her pass a crucial minimum wage bill.

#5: The opposition to her presidential campaign was fierce.

While campaigning for president in 1972, she faced opposition from all sides: Black men in her party, racist men AND women, war hawks upset with her anti-Vietnam stance, and voters concerned about “electability.”

But her run was about sending a message. “I want history to remember me... as a [B]lack woman who… dared to be herself… as a catalyst for change in America.”

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