Scholarship Honors Shirley Chisholm, A Woman of Firsts

On Thursday, November 29, Brooklyn College celebrated the third annual Shirley Chisholm Day to commemorate the life and accomplishments of the first black woman to be elected to Congress and the first woman to run for President of the United States as a member of a major political party.

Organized by Professor Patricia Antoniello, director of the Shirley Chisholm Center for Research on Women, the program began with a forum at the Woody Tanger Auditorium where Joshua Guild, a Princeton University history professor who specializes in African American history currently researching a book on black politicians, was the keynote speaker. Friends and supporters of Chisholm also spoke about the late Congresswoman.

During the luncheon that followed, participants were elated to celebrate one more milestone. Professor Barbara Winslow of the Brooklyn College School of Education and the Women’s Studies Program announced that she had received a $200,000 grant from the Westchester Jewish Women’s Fund to create the Shirley Chisholm Archive at Brooklyn College.

Others who extolled Chisholm’s achievements included New York State Assemblyman N. Nick Perry, who in 2005 was responsible for having November 30 designated as Shirley Chisholm Day in New York State.

Also at the event were Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Yvonne Graham, Brooklyn College Acting Provost Nancy Hager, President of Brooklyn Alumnae Delta Sigma Theta (ÄÓÈ) Bernadette Walker, filmmaker Shola Lynch.

A native of Brooklyn, Chisholm was born to Caribbean parents on November 30, 1924. She lived in Barbados, her mother’s birthplace, before returning to Brooklyn at the age of 10. After graduating from Brooklyn College with a bachelor’s degree in sociology as a member of the Class of 1946, she continued her education at Columbia University, obtaining her M.A.

In 1964, Chisholm was elected to the New York State Assembly as a Democrat from Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Four years later, she became the first black woman to be elected to Congress, where she served seven terms and battled for such causes as education, employment and the rights of Haitian refugees. Chisholm sought the Democratic nomination for president in 1972, garnering a total of one hundred fifty-one delegates at the convention.

Chisholm retired from Congress in 1982. She died in 2005.