Monday, June 9, 2008

Who Came Before

Now that it appears that Barack Obama will be the Democratic Presidential nominee with Hillary Clinton backing out, at least the question was answered, "Which Democrat will represent the party for the run for the White House? A woman, or an African-American?" For some time now, such novelty ensued...the thought that either could come within a heartbeat away of representing a major political party, even possibly becoming the next President of the United States. Who could imagine it?

Shirley Chisholm did, in 1972. An African American woman. The first African-American woman to be elected to Congress in 1968. The first woman to have her name placed for nomination for a major political party, and the first African American to have her name on the Presidential ballot.

In a speech she gave on June 4th, 1972, Chisholm spoke of the reality of her situation:
"I am a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. I make that statement proudly, in the full knowledge that, as a black person and as a female person, I do not have a chance of actually gaining that office in this election year. I make that statement seriously, knowing that my candidacy itself can change the face and future of American politics - that it will be important to the needs and hopes of every one of you - even though, in the conventional sense, I will not win."

In all the commentary and opining and chattering of many a talking head, I never heard Ms. Chisholm's name mentioned. All I heard was people talking about the novelty of having a African-American and a Woman running for the Democratic ticket, as if they were the first people on the Moon. In fact, I don't recall either Clinton or Obama themselves speaking of the woman, who admittedly knew she would never make it to the White House, but ran anyway, hoping that her attempt would pave the way for others such as herself to take the same path.

Shirley Chisholm was years ahead of her time...thirty-five years, to be exact.

1 comment:

  1. thank you! We forget that there had to be courageous individuals to show us what we can dare to try, even if they fail. Check out the history of Victoria Woodhull, who was even more ahead of her time.