Shirley Chisholm Historical Marker
This historical marker outside of the Jackie Robinson Ballpark and Museum in Daytona Beach includes the words "Barrier Breaker," a fitting description for the person whose life it describes. Shirley Chisholm was a groundbreaking African American politician who became the first woman of color to be elected to the House of Representatives when she won her election to represent her home district in Brooklyn in 1968. In 1972, Chisholm became the first African American to secure delegates in a major party primary for President when she ran for the Democratic nomination. Chisholm received ten percent of the vote, a significant share given the number of candidates and she won several states. Chisholm's support beyond New York and New Jersey was strongest in the South and she won two states that had given their support to a pro-segregation Dixiecrat in recent elections, thereby demonstrating the significance of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Chisholm continued to serve in the House of Representatives until 1982 and her career paved a way for more African Americans and women to run successful campaigns.
Backstory and Context
Shirley Chisholm was born on November 30th, 1924 in Brooklyn. At the age of five, she went to live with her grandmother on a farm in Barbados. As a result, during her formative years, she attended a school that emphasized the British way of teaching reading, writing, and history. When she returned to New York she graduated from Brooklyn Girls’ High and went on to get her undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College in 1946. Chisholm graduated with an M.A. in education from Columbia University, and she was active in campus and community organizations.
After graduation Chisholm worked as a nursery school teacher and a consultant for the New York City Division of Day Care. During these years, she was active in several organizations such as the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, the Democratic Party Club in Brooklyn and the Urban League. In 1964, Chisholm ran and won a seat in the New York State Legislature where she sponsored bills that supported education. One of the bills Chisholm sponsored provided financial assistance to lower income students to help them attend college. Another successful bill Chisholm supported was a protected the tenure of New York teachers on maternity leave.
While in Congress, Chisholm often took stands on topics that other politicians avoided such as opposition to the Vietnam War. Chisholm believed that the war was not only a poor decision internationally, but also robbed America of critical domestic funding that could support American social programs. Chisholm was also outspoken about the need to support employment opportunities for women (specifically Black women) and a woman’s right to an abortion. In 1972 Chisholm ran for President and survived three assassination attempts.
Michals, Debra. Shirley Chisholm (1924- 2015). National Women's History Museum. http://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/shirley-chisholm.
Shirley Chisholm Biography.com. The Biography.com website. https://www.biography.com/people/shirley-chisholm-9247015.
Cross, Brandon D. Shirley Chisholm Barrier Breaker. The Historical Marker Database. https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=105812&Result=1.
Shirley Chisholm Biography. Encyclopedia of World Biography. http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ch-Co/Chisholm-Shirley.html.