Featured Document Display: Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm: “Unbought and Unbossed”

Friday, February 19, 2021 - Friday, March 19, 2021

"First black woman congressman"

In 1969, Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman to serve in Congress, or, as she preferred, the "first black woman congressman." She was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 and the Congressional Women's Caucus in 1977. Chisholm was also the first woman and the first African American to seek the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1972.

During her seven Congressional terms, “Fighting Shirley” was an outspoken champion for economic justice and racial and gender equality. Fully aware of her place in history as a barrier-breaker, Chisholm hoped instead "to be remembered as a woman . . . who dared to be a catalyst of change." Shirley Chisholm died on January 1, 2005, at age 80.


Shirley Chisholm's Oath of Office
When Shirley Chisholm took her oath of office on January 21, 1969, she was the only new woman to enter Congress that term and just one of nine African American members in the House of Representatives. As a freshman member, Chisholm did not hesitate to speak up and—when needed—make herself heard. 

As a Representative for Brooklyn, New York, she vigorously appealed her appointment to the Committee on Agriculture and persisted until she was reassigned to the Veterans Affairs Committee. She accepted the change, remarking “there are a lot more veterans in my district than trees.” 

Shirley Chisholm’s Oath of Office
National Archives, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives 


Photograph of the Rules Committee, 95th Congress, ca. 1977
In 1977, Shirley Chisholm made history again when she became the first Black woman and second woman ever to serve on the powerful House Rules Committee, which sets the conditions for debating legislative bills on the floor of the House of Representatives. 

Photograph of the Rules Committee, 95th Congress, ca. 1977
National Archives, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives