African-American and Female in One Candidate

In 1972, the late New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American female candidate for president. Now, 36 years later, her speech announcing her candidacy can still be heard.


I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up: Wisdom Watch conversation about how a chance meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed one man's life, and remembering the journalist Danny Pearl.

But first, much of the political talk this election season has focused on the historic nature of two candidacies, one which could lead to the first African-American in the White House, and the other to the first woman.

We wanted to take this opportunity to note the anniversary of another historic candidacy, that of New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who delivered this speech outside the U.S. Capitol on January 25th, 1972.

Ms. SHIRLEY CHISHOLM (Former Democratic Representative, New York; Former Democratic Presidential Candidate): I stand before you today as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States. I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I'm not the candidate of the women's movement of this country, although I am a woman, and I'm equally proud of that. I am not the candidate of any political bosses or fat cats or special interests.

I stand here now without endorsements from many big-name politicians or celebrities or any kind of prop. I do not intend to offer to you the tired and glib cliches which have for too long been an accepted part of our political life. I am the candidate of the people, and my presence before you now symbolizes a new era in American political history.

MARTIN: Chisholm's candidacy was the first by an African-American man or woman from a major political party. She did not win her party's nomination, but now, listening to her words we can hear, foreshadowing of the message Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are delivering today and a call to all those who believe in equal opportunity for all.

Ms. CHISHOLM: I stand before you today to repudiate the ridiculous notion that the American people will not vote for a qualified candidate simply because he is not white or because she is not a male. I do not believe that in 1972, the great majority of Americans harbor such narrow and petty prejudices. I'm convinced that the American people are in a mood to discard the politics and the political personalities of the past. I believe they will show in 1972 and thereafter that they intend to make independent judgments on the merits of a particular candidate based on that candidate's intelligence, character, physical ability, competence, integrity and honesty. It is I feel.

The duty of responsible leaders in this country to encourage and to maximize, not to dismiss or minimize such judgments, all of you who share this vision from New York to California, from Wisconsin to Florida, are brothers and sisters on the road to national unity and a new kind of America.

MARTIN: That's the late New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, announcing her candidacy for president 36 years ago this week.

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