Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

January 29, 1972

On January 29, 1972, the New York Amsterdam News’ front page announced that Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm would be the first black woman to run for president as a major party candidate (Charlene Mitchell ran on the Communist Party ticket in 1968). The newspaper’s headline floated a question—“Madame President?”—that has still not been answered in the United States (click to view PDF).

Announcing her candidacy, Chisholm said, “I am not the candidate of Black America, although I am Black and proud. I am not the candidate of the Women’s Movement of this country, although I am a woman, and I am equally proud of that. I am not the candidate of any political bosses or special interests...I stand before you today to repudiate the ridiculous notion that the American people will not vote for a qualified candidate simply because he is not white or because she is not a male. I do not believe that, in 1972, the great majority of Americans harbor such narrow and petty prejudices.”

My favorite part of this article is the subheadline“Our Shirley first Black woman to run”—because it speaks to the sense of pride many black people (especially black New Yorkers) felt in regard to Chisholm’s campaign.

In the Democratic primaries, Chisholm earned 2.6 percent of the popular vote. Her 152 
delegates put her in fourth place behind the Democratic Party’s nominee George McGovern, Henry Jackson, and George Wallace. “I ran for the presidency, despite hopeless odds, to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo,” Chisholm later said. “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.”

On Shirley Chisholm’s historic campaign and political career, see The Shirley Chisholm Project of Brooklyn Women’s Activism from CUNY Brooklyn College; Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed, documentary film by Shola Lynch; Anastasia Curwood’s “Black Feminism on Capitol Hill: Shirley Chisholm and Movement Politics, 1968–1984”; Julie Gallagher’s Black Women and Politics in New York City; and Josh Guild’s chapter “To Make That Someday Come: Shirley Chisholm’s Radical Politics of Possibility”.

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