Shirley Chisholm in Real Life: Presidential Race Videos & Photos

Shirley Chisholm

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Shirley Chisholm, one of the main characters in Hulu’s Mrs. America, led an unsuccessful but historic run for President of the United States. Although Mrs. America warns that some parts of the series are more “inspired” than others, Chisholm’s presidential run truly did happen.

Shirley Chisholm was already a successful politician when she ran for President. She served in Congress as a Democrat member of the House of Representatives from New York, first elected in 1968. She was the first African-American Congresswoman, House.gov noted, and represented a new district in Brooklyn. When she first ran, she faced Thomas R. Jones, Dolly Robinson, and William C. Thompson. She called herself “fighting Shirley Chisholm” and visited housing projects with a sound truck. Her campaign motto in the general House election was “unbought and unbossed” and she won largely on gender issues. Her opponent, Republican-Liberal James Farmer, had similar stances on many issues, but he believed “women have been in the driver’s seat” for too long. She won by 67%.

Not long after that, she was running for President in 1972.  Her name was on 12 Democratic primary ballots and she got 152 delegate votes (10% total), House.gov reported. During her run, she competed against George Wallace for the Democratic ticket that would be facing the incumbent President Richard Nixon. Also running against her were Hubert Humphrey, Edmund Muskie, George McGovern, and Henry M. Jackson.

Here is a video of Chisolm announcing her presidential run:


Shirley Chisholm: Declares Presidential Bid, January 25, 1972Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman to run for President when she sought the Democratic nomination in 1972. WNYC Collection, 1936 – 1981 NYC Department of Records, Municipal Archives, New York City NYCM2776 Chisholm2015-04-13T16:17:40.000Z

Chisholm had a strong background in politics and a strong record when she ran. She was one of only 19 people in the House who wanted to Vietnam War hearings, and she fought for food stamps, Head Start, and helped found the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Women’s Caucus, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

She couldn’t get the full feminist vote, however. Gloria Steinmen supported McGovern. Robert Gottlieb, an intern in Chisholm’s campaign, told Smithsonian Magazine that the Black Congressional Caucus was also split over her run and there was a lot of tension with the male members. In addition, Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond, and John Conyers, Jr. supported McGovern. Louis Stokes supported Humphrey. Alcee Hastings and Leroy Johnson supported Muskie.

Wallace told people in Florida to vote for Chisholm if they didn’t vote for him.  But Chisholm said that actually hurt her in Florida because people thought she was working with him, Smithsonian Magazine reported. She also received a lot of anger when she visited Wallace in the hospital after he was shot.

Chisholm wanted a brokered convention at the DNC. She had 152 delegates but McGovern had 1,729.  She was in fourth place at the convention, behind McGovern, Jackson, and Wallace, History.com reported.

In the video below, Chisholm talks about her presidential run.


Shirley Chisholm : My Bid for Presidency2010-04-27T05:59:24.000Z

Chisholm was later listed as one of the top-10 most admired women in America in a 1974 Gallup poll, two years after her presidential run, House.gov reported. She faced some new opposition to her House position after she ran for President. By 1982, she decided not to seek re-election, holding her position in the house from 1968 through 1982.

Here’s a video of Chisholm in 1983 after she left office.


Shirley Chisholm SpeechShirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman and a 1971 candidate for nominee for Presidency of United States in a historical political moment speaks at the Greenfield High School Auditorium in 1983. Introduction by Risky Case.2011-02-09T15:43:09.000Z

According to House.gov, part of the reason she decided not to run again was because of the country’s conservative turn when Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980. In 1984 and 1988, she campaigned for Jesse Jackson.

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