2005 NEWS RELEASES, PRESS ADVISORIES AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS

USCCR COMMEMORATES LIFE OF CIVIL RIGHTS PIONEER SHIRLEY CHISHOLM

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights today recognized the passing of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, who served seven terms and was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. "Ms. Chisholm was a strong voice for women, minorities, and the poor at a time when many disadvantaged Americans faced seemingly insurmountable barriers," said Gerald Reynolds, Commission Chairman. "She will be remembered for her unwavering commitment to expanding freedom for all Americans," he added.

In 1972 Ms. Chisholm became the first woman to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. Although she did not win the candidacy, her run was considered by many a catalyst for change that opened doors to political office for women and minority candidates. Ms. Chisholm often said that during her political career she felt more frequently discriminated against because of sex than race, an observation which induced her to fight to break down barriers to women's employment and income disparities. "If women are already equal," she asked in 1969, "why is it such an event whenever one happens to be elected to Congress?"

Ms. Chisholm was born Shirley Anita St. Hill on November 30, 1924 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. She attended Brooklyn College and later earned a master's degree in elementary education at Columbia University. She became an expert in child welfare and a crusader for early education. In 1964, she began her political career, winning a seat on the New York State Assembly. She served in the United States Congress from 1969 to 1983. After retiring from Congress, she taught at Mount Holyoke College and continued public speaking. She died on January 1, 2005 in Ormond Beach, Florida.

"The nation owes a debt of gratitude to Ms. Chisholm that can never be repaid. She blazed a trail for all of us," Reynolds said.

01/04/05