Shirley Chisholm

"I am and always will be a catalyst for change."


Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (1924–2005; Teachers College 1951) was a famed U.S. congresswoman and lifelong social activist.

Born on November 30, 1924, in a predominantly black neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, Chisholm spent part of her childhood in Barbados with her grandmother. After graduating from Brooklyn College in 1946, she began her career as a teacher and went on to earn a master's degree in elementary education from Columbia University's Teachers College.

In 1968, Chisholm made history by becoming the first African American congresswoman, beginning the first of seven terms in the House of Representatives. After initially being assigned to the Forestry Committee, she shocked many by demanding reassignment. She was placed on the Veterans' Affairs Committee and later joined the Education and Labor Committee.

Chisholm was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and made history again in 1972, becoming the first African American candidate from a major party to make a bid for the U.S. presidency when she ran for the Democratic nomination. A champion of minority education and employment opportunities throughout her tenure in Congress, Chisholm was also a vocal opponent of the military draft. After leaving Congress in 1983, she taught at Mount Holyoke College and was popular on the lecture circuit.