Recently President Obama presented the distinguished Presidential Medal of Freedom to several deserving recipients, and although posthumous Shirley Chisholm’s name was rightfully one of those to top the list. She was an unflinching champion of minority education and employment opportunities for all. Shirley Chisholm didn’t get into or stay in politics for the back door wheeling and dealing, the kickbacks or wealth. She strived to uplift herself and the African American community while proclaiming “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”
Born in 1924 in Brooklyn, New York, Shirley Chisholm began her professional career as a teacher. She graduated from Brooklyn College in 1946, and went on to receive a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Columbia University.
Before there was a Barack Obama, who would become the United States first African American President there was Shirley Chisholm. In 1968, she made history by becoming the first African American to earn election to Congress, where she worked on the Education and Labor Committee and helped form the Congressional Black Caucus. A few years later she would set a precedent making history again by becoming the first black woman of a major party to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Chisholm also authored two books: “Unbought & Unbossed” (1970) and “The Good Fight” (1973).
Not one to shy away from the truth or harsh reality Shirley Chisholm was well aware of the challenges that awaited her regarding her being a woman as well being black in the political arena. One of her most well know quotes was “Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread, and deep-seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal… in the end anti-black, anti-female and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing: anti-humanism.” She was a dignitary, an African American woman who happened to be a politician, not a politician who just happened to be an African-American woman. She fought for her place in society and on the behalf of others like her.