Pushing the Glass Ceiling: Shirley Chisholm & the Democratic Party


  • Towela M Munthali Tulane University


In 1972 US Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm decided to run for president, becoming the first African American woman to do so. Beyond the symbolic significance of her campaign, Shirley Chisholm paved the way for other minority leaders such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton by having the tenacity to challenge societal expectations and persevere in the face of adversity. A liberal and outspoken politician from working class Brooklyn, Chisholm based her presidential campaign on serving the country’s marginalized populations. She was popular with college students, women, ethnic minorities, and seemed to be the people’s candidate. However, the primaries were an uphill battle for Chisholm; her opponents were significantly more experienced with better resources and influential connections. In addition, due to the grassroots nature of her campaign, Chisholm was plagued with internal issues such as underfunding and understaffing, as well as external issues like racism and misogyny. Thus, she would have to maximize her use of limited resources and devote herself to key primaries, opting to have rallies and an active campaign presence only in certain states. In March of 1972, Chisholm would have to choose between campaigning in two crucial states: Florida and New Hampshire, with hopes of winning enough delegates to secure her party’s nomination and become the Democratic Party’s candidate.