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March is National Women’s History Month, and no woman is more deserving of remembrance during this time than Shirley Chisholm, who died at the age of 80 this past January, leaving behind an unprecedented political legacy. She was the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968, representing New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn until her retirement in 1983. She was also an orginal member of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Board of Advisors.
“Shirley Chisholm’s election to the Congress in 1968 was a prime example of the strength of the black vote as a result of the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” says NAACP Acting President and CEO Dennis Courtland Hayes. “She leaves a strong legacy as an advocate for minority rights and women’s liberation.” Just ask the 14 African American women in the House of Representatives today. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) has said: “If there were no Shirley Chisholm, there would be no Stephanie Tubbs Jones.”
A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chisholm boldly ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972 under the slogan “Unbought and Unbossed.” Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) says Chisholm was “one of the founding mothers leading the modern-day black political movement,” paving the way for Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, and all those yet to come who will run for U.S. president. Lewis says, “American politics will always be indebted to Shirley Chisholm for extending its reach beyond the mainstream.”