NPR logo The Courage of Shirley Chisholm

The Courage of Shirley Chisholm

U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Fla., in July 1972. Pictorial Parade/Getty Images hide caption

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Pictorial Parade/Getty Images

I missed filmmaker Shola Lynch's documentary Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed the first time around, but I just caught it on Netflix. Amazing. It's a must-see for any of the current presidential candidates — be they John McCain or Dennis Kucinich — who fancy themselves mavericks. It's a gotta-see for all the liberals who think of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton as being the first "viable" black or female candidate. And for all of us, it solidifies the bromide, "Those who don't learn from the past..."

It is absolutely heartbreaking to see Shirley Chisholm suffer through the same inane questioning of her "blackness" (her mother was from Barbados, her father from Guyana) and to see old-school blacks line up against her because she threatens their power. It's mind-boggling to watch "feminists" of the era abandon her because they feel she can't win.


Is it heartbreaking and mind-boggling in retrospect because you realize that in 35 years things haven't really changed?

And lemme add this:

For all who think that Obama is a good public speaker, and he is, Chisholm is absolutely galvanizing. When she exclaims that she is running for president because she has the "courage, the balls and the audacity" to believe she can win, it is as tough and as inspiring as any words spoken by any present-day politician.

Basically, she possesses that unforgivable blackness that I so admire.

When asked, Chisholm said that she did not want to be remembered as the first black woman elected to Congress. She did not want to be recalled as the first black woman who ran for president. She wanted people to remember her as someone who wanted to change America for the better.

Watch the DVD and take a minute to remember Shirley Chisholm.