Shirley Anita Chisholm 1924-2005

Shirley Chisholm

Photo: History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, “Shirley Anita Chisholm,” (February 16, 2015)

Shirley Anita Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 30, 1924 one of eight children to, Charles Hill (from British Guiana), a bakery worker, and Ruby Seale (from Barbados), a seamstress and maid. Shirley spent the first ten years of her life living with and being raised by her maternal grandmother in Barbados. She returned to live with her parents in New York City during the height of the Great Depression. She attended New York City public schools and won scholarships to many well-respected colleges but unfortunately could not afford room and board so she decided to live at home while she attended Brooklyn College. Shirley graduated from Brooklyn College with honors in 1946 and in 1949 she married Conrad Chisholm. After graduating from Brooklyn College, in 1953 she went on to earn her M.A. in Early Childhood Education from Columbia University. Upon graduating from Columbia, she served as a teacher’s aide, teacher, and eventually the director of three childcare facilities (Carey, 45).

In 1960, she became fed up with the lack of Democratic African-American representation in the New York State Assembly so she decided to run and she was elected to the assembly in 1964 where she served until 1968. In 1969 she ran for congress and she became the first African-American congresswoman. In 1972 she helped to found the Congressional Black Caucus and in 1972 under the Democratic ticket, she became the first major party African-American candidate to run for presidency (Carey, 46).

Chisholm divorced her first husband in 1978 and married Arthur Hardwick who suffered from serious health issues after having been involved in a car accident a year after their marriage, and then several years later being diagnosed with cancer. In 1983 she chose to retire from congress to care for her ailing husband. Upon retiring she taught politics and women’s studies at Mt. Holyoke in Massachusetts from 1983-1987. In 1984 she co-founded the National Political Congress of Black Women. She worked on Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988, and later in 1993 she was asked to serve as the Ambassador to Jamaica but turned down the nomination due to failing health (Shirley Chisholm Biography).

Shirley died at the age of 80 on January 1, 2005 after suffering from several strokes. Shirley was survived by her husband Arthur; she had no children.

Works Cited

“Shirley Chisholm Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography (2015): n. pag. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.

Carey, Charles. African-American Political Leaders. Infobase Publishing, 2004. 45-46. Print.


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