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Chisholm ’72 – Unbought and Unbossed

Shola Lynch

Recalling a watershed event in US politics, this compelling documentary takes an in-depth look at the 1972 presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and the first to seek nomination for the highest office in the land.

Following Chisholm from her own announcement of her candidacy through her historic speech in Miami at the Democratic National Convention, the story is a fight for inclusion. Shunned by the political establishment and the media, this longtime champion of marginalized Americans asked for support from people of color, women, gays, and young people newly empowered to vote at the age of 18. Chisholm’s bid for an equal place on the presidential dais generated strong, even racist opposition. Yet her challenge to the status quo and her message about exercising the right to vote struck many as progressive and positive. Period footage and music, interviews with supporters, opponents, observers, and Chisholm’s own commentary all illuminate her groundbreaking initiative, as well as political and social currents still very much alive today.

“Long before Hillary Clinton there was Shirley Chisholm. [This] gripping portrayal ought to be mandatory viewing for [understanding] the historic presidential race of 2008 or the American political scene in the age of Nixon.” Robin D. G. Kelley, Professor of History & American Studies, University of Southern California

“An essential historical record of Chisholm’s campaign and its multidimensional significance to American culture and politics told in Chisholm’s voice…Crucial example of how necessary independent filmmaking is to civic engagement.” Terri Simone Francis, Asst. Professor, Film Studies & African American Studies, Yale University

“A refreshing antidote to the opportunism and cynicism that rules the political roost today…an inspiring tale of someone who made a difference.” The Hollywood Reporter


Shirley Chisholm: born Shirley Anita St. Hill, November 30, 1924, in Brooklyn, Kings County, N.Y.; elementary schooling in Barbados (her mother’s country of origin) and the New York City public schools; B.A. from Brooklyn College (1946) and M.A. from Columbia University in (1952); 1949, married Conrad Chisholm (divorced 1977); held several positions in early childhood education, including in the Division of Day Care, New York City, 1959-1964; elected to New York State Assembly, 1964-1968.

In 1969, she was the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress and was re-elected six times until she retired from political office in 1983. During her first term in Congress, she hired an all-female staff. In Congress, she spoke out for civil rights and women’s rights, advocated for the poor and opposed the Vietnam War. She ran for the Democratic Nomination for President in 1972.

She was active in the NAACP and co-founder of Unity Democratic Club in Brooklyn (instrumental in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters), the National Women’s Political Caucus, the National Political Congress of Black Women and one of the early members of the National Organization for Women. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.

Chisholm wrote the autobiographical works Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973).

Shirley Chisholm died in Florida at the age of 80 on January 1, 2005. Learn more about her death, and comment on her legacy in the


  • 3/13 | 8:00PM
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