Regina King as Shirley Chisholm, the only African American woman in a sea of Congressmen.

Shirley Chisholm the Woman Who Ran for President

Posted by Speakeasy News > Tuesday 30 April 2024 > What's On

A new TV film shines the spotlight on a trailblazer in U.S. politics: Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first, and only, woman to run for the Presidential nomination. Regina King plays "Fighting Shirley", who faced, and faced up to, obstacles all through her career.  

This would have been Chisholm's centenary year. She was born in Brooklyn in 1924, to parents from Guyana and Barbados. Her talent and fire must have been evident from her youth, because professors when she was at Brooklyn College in the mid-1940s encouraged her to consider a career in politics. At the time she refused, saying she had a double handicap, being both black and a woman.

Instead she became a teacher but was active in political circles, opposing injustice and discrimination. In 1964, she was elected to the New York State Legislature, and in 1968 to Congress, where she would remain until 1983.

In 1972 she decided to run for the Democratic nomination for President. Despite opposition from her own party structure, she managed to garner 10% of the delegates' votes in the primaries.

Chisholm proudly announced she was "unbought and unbossed", owing her allegiance only to voters.

Regina King (If Beale Street Could Speak, The Harder They Fall, Watchmen) produced as well as starred in the film. She and her sister Reina had been determined for years to make Chisholm a household name. Reina King explains, "For me it was just the fact that in school, Shirley Chisholm wasn’t being taught to me, but she was somebody that I was aware of. It was knowing that you learned about Malcolm X and you learned about Martin Luther King in U.S. history classes, but not this great, powerful woman. Why aren’t students being told about that?" Shirley aims to redress that balance.

Streaming on Netflix

Regina King as Shirley Chisholm and Terrence Howard as Arthur Hardwick, a fundraiser and advisor to Shirley’s campaign.

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