Updated: Sep 22
Shirley Anita St. Hill was born on November 30, 1924 in Brooklyn, NY. Her mother was from Barbados (Bajan) and her father was Guyanese and Bajan. At the age of five, she and her sisters were sent to Barbados to live with their maternal grandmother, Emaline Seale, for the next five years. As a result of her time on the island, Chisholm considered herself a Barbadian-American.
After receiving her master’s degree in Elementary Education from the Teachers College, Columbia University, she dedicated her early career to early childhood education. She served as the director of day-care centers in Brooklyn and NYC, and eventually became a consultant for the Division of Day Care in the New York Office of Children and Family Services.
In 1965, Chisholm was elected to the New York State Assembly where she served until 1968. She was elected as the Democratic National Committeewoman from New York State in 1968, and became the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress, which resulted in her being Brooklyn's first African-American member of Congress. While serving in the House of Representatives, the Congresswoman fought for programs like Head Start, school lunches and food stamps, and was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Women’s Caucus.
Chisholm broke ground in 1972 by becoming the first African-American woman to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, as well as the first woman to appear in a U.S. presidential debate. 'Unbought and Unbossed' was her presidential campaign slogan.
I want history to remember me... not as the first Black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of The United States, but as a Black woman who lived in the 20th century and who dared to be herself. I want to be remembered as a catalyst for change in America.
In 2020 Uzo Aduba portrayed Chisholm in the FX TV miniseries Mrs. America, which she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series.
She credited her grandmother as a source of “strength, dignity and love”; her mother for inspiring her as a model for moral authority and conviction; and her father (a devoted follower of Marcus Garvey) for igniting her political consciousness and supporting her leadership aspirations.