Shirley Chisholm Dies at Age 80

Shirley Chisholm dies at age 80 (CNN)

Photo: Former Representative Shirley Chisholm in a 1971 photograph.Shirley Chisholm, an advocate for minority rights who became the first black woman elected to Congress and later the first black person to seek a major party’s nomination for the U.S. presidency, has died. The Rev. Jesse Jackson called her a “woman of great courage.” Chisholm, who took her seat in the U.S. House in 1969, was a riveting speaker who often criticized Congress as being too clubby and unresponsive. An outspoken champion of women and minorities during seven terms in the House, she also was a staunch critic of the Vietnam War. Details of her death on Saturday were not immediately available. She was 80.

Chisholm ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, a campaign that was viewed as more symbolic than practical. She won 152 delegates before withdrawing from the race. “I ran for the Presidency, despite hopeless odds, to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo,” Chisholm said in her book “The Good Fight.” “The next time a woman runs, or a black, a Jew or anyone from a group that the country is ‘not ready’ to elect to its highest office, I believe that he or she will be taken seriously from the start.”

Chisholm was an interesting character. Whenever her name is mentioned, it’s almost always in connection with her meaningless run for the presidency. This is rather odd, in that she was not a serious candidate. A white male whose only national claim to fame was three years in the House of Representatives would not have been taken seriously, yet she was somehow considered a pioneer for the publicity stunt. When Jesse Jackson made his first bid, in the 1984 race, he was taken seriously because of his national prominence. When Alan Keyes sought the nomination in 1996 and Al Sharpton in 2004, they were taken with the same gravity as Dennis Kucinich.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    It is, perhaps a measure of where we are today, that Democrats of today would consider her too conservative.