On January 27, 1972, Shirley Chisholm announced her trailblazing candidacy for US President from a small Baptist church in her Brooklyn congressional district.

With that historic step, Chisholm became the first black candidate for a major party’s nomination for President, and the first woman to run for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination.

You can watch her electrifying announcement here.

Just three years earlier, Chisholm had become the first African-American woman elected to the US Congress, representing New York’s 12th congressional district.

When she announced her intention to run for President, Chisholm stated:

“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 policies or fat cats or special interests. I stand here now, without endorsements from many big name politicians or celebrities or any other kind of prop. I do not intend to offer you the tired clichés that have too long been an accepted part of our political life. I am the candidate of the people of America, and my presence before you now symbolizes a new era in American political history.”

Chisholm’s deeply resonant voice and delivery style were among her strongest assets. Her sentences were carefully cadenced, her intonation impeccable.

Shirley ChisholmHer speaking style derived, in part, from the Depression years when she and her two sisters were sent to live with their grandmother in Barbados while her parents remained in New York. Chisholm attended a one-room schoolhouse, where she received a British education and picked up that distinctive accent.

And she used her voice, literally and figuratively, to convey her no-nonsense agenda. “I have no intention of just sitting quietly and observing,” she said when she was running for Congress. “I intend to speak out immediately in order to focus on the nation’s problems.”

During her presidential bid, Chisholm’s campaign slogan was “unsought and unbossed.” These words became the title of her autobiography – they’re also carved on her gravestone in Buffalo.

Oscar-winner Viola Davis recently announced she’ll be producing and starring in The Fighting Shirley Chisholm, a biopic of Chisholm’s extraordinary life. 

You can read the full text of Chisholm’s campaign announcement here, and watch it here.

Chisholm’s announcement speech will be among the hundreds of speeches by women featured in the soon-to-come Keynote Women Speech Bank. Find out about it here, and sign up so we can let you know when we launch.


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