Photograph by Pictorial Parade / Getty Images
Read Caption
Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American female elected to Congress, speaks to a crowd at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida.
Photograph by Pictorial Parade / Getty Images

Shirley Chisholm

How the first black female in Congress never stopped speaking out

Born on November 30, 1924, Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman to serve in the United States Congress. An early education expert from New York City, Chisholm began working with local political organizations and in 1964 won a seat on the New York state legislature, representing her Brooklyn neighborhood. Four years later, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

View Images
Rep. Shirley Chisholm, here at a fund-raiser for the YMCA in New York City, was a champion for equal rights for women, blacks, and the poor.

Chisholm was outspoken and brave. Instead of accepting her seat on the Agriculture Committee—even though she represented people from a city—she complained to leaders until they reassigned her to an education committee. When she was blocked from television debates after she decided to run for president (the first African-American woman to do so), she sued. She fought for equal rights for women, minorities, immigrants, and the poor.

Serving seven terms (14 years) in Congress, Chisholm helped open up opportunities for people like President Barack Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren. But she said she didn’t want to be remembered as the first woman or African American to do something. She wanted to be remembered as someone who "had guts." She died on January 1, 2005.