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Monday, January 03, 2005

African American political pioneer Chisholm dies

African American political pioneer Chisholm dies

African American political pioneer Chisholm dies
NEW YORK, Jan. 3 — Political pioneer Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress and a champion of women's rights, died Saturday in Florida, congressional officials said. She was 80.
Details of her death were not yet known, but a former member of her staff told The New York Times she had suffered several recent strokes.
Chisholm, a slender, sharp-tongued former teacher, served seven terms representing a poverty-stricken district in Brooklyn and was one of the first women ever to seek the presidential nomination of a major party, winning 151 delegates to the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami. She served in Congress until 1982.
''She was a great trailblazer, not only for African Americans but for women,'' civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who sought the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, told Reuters.
Chisholm, one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Organization for Women, hired an all-women staff during her first term in Congress and spoke out for civil rights, women's rights and against the Vietnam War.
Chisholm's 1968 congressional campaign slogan was ''unbought and unbossed,'' which she also used as the title of her 1970 book about her historic election.
The daughter of a factory worker and a seamstress from the Caribbean islands, Chisholm attended Brooklyn College and went on to earn a master's degree in elementary education at Columbia University.
Chisholm taught at a nursery school and eventually became a nursery school director and an educational consultant to New York's bureau of child welfare before turning to politics.
After registering a shock victory to win her seat in Congress, Chisholm wasted little time in raising her voice.
Placed on the House Agriculture Committee, Chisholm challenged the assignment as irrelevant to constituents in her urban district.
''Apparently all they know here in Washington about Brooklyn is that a tree grew there,'' she said in a statement at the time referring to Betty Smith's well-known book.
She was soon reassigned to the Veterans Affairs Committee and later to the Education and Labor Committee.
''She was a hero to those of us who wanted to see blacks advance to their rightful place in politics,'' George Dalley, chief of staff to New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, said Monday.
Sharpton said he had known Chisholm since he was an 18-year-old working as a youth director on her presidential campaign.
''If not for her I don't think Condoleezza Rice would ever had existed,'' he said, referring to President Bush's national security adviser and secretary of state designate.
''She broke the barrier down for black women in the highest circles of power in Washington and she did it with dignity and did it effectively and did it with no fear.''
Funeral arrangements for Chisholm were expected to be made public Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman at the Leo C. Chase & Son Funeral Home in St. Augustine, Florida.

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