“I want to be remembered as a woman … who dared to be a catalyst of change.” — Shirley ChisholmI

Shirley Chisholm was our  first black U.S. Congresswoman.  Her body of work is a legacy that is sadly, for all American citizens , slowly being destroyed.

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was born November 30, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York to immigrant parents. When she was young, her parents sent her to Barbados to live with her maternal grandmother along with two of her sisters. She returned to the United States when she was 10 years old. In 1942, Shirley graduated from Brooklyn Girls’ High and went on to attend Brooklyn College where in 1946 she graduated cum laude. While in college, Shirley was on the debate team and her professors encouraged her to consider working in politics. In 1951, Shirley earned a master’s degree in early childhood education from Columbia University. She went on to become the director of a child care center and a consultant for the New York City Bureau of Child Welfare.During this time, Shirley had become more politically active joining organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), League of Women Voters, and the Brooklyn Chapter of the National Association of College Women. In 1964, she ran for the New York State Legislature and won. She was only the second African American. While working in the state legislature, she extended unemployment benefits and sponsored a program that would benefit disadvantaged students who wanted to attend college. In 1968, Shirley ran for a seat in Congress and won — making her the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress. Her campaign slogan was “Unbought and Unbossed” which later became the title of her autobiography.

Once in the U.S. Congress, Shirley began working to expand the food stamps program in addition to a specific program to provide greater access to food for women and children who couldn’t afford it. She continued to fight for equality through introducing bills and eventually in her role on the Education and Labor Committee. Shirley had experienced racial and gender discrimination during her campaigns so she decided to hire all women to work in her office, half of them being black. In 1969, she was one of the original members of the Congressional Black Caucus and in 1971, she co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus which to this day remains “a multi-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the political process.”
Shirley made history again when she sought the 1972 Democratic Party presidential nomination. She was the first African-American candidate to run for president in a major-party but wasn’t given a fair shot due to discrimination. Her campaign was underfunded and she wasn’t viewed as a serious candidate. Shirley also received numerous death threats during her campaign. But despite these odds, she still gained 10% of the total delegate votes at the convention placing her in fourth place overall.

After her failed presidential bid, Shirley continued her work in Congress succeeding in to give minimum wage rights to domestic workers and supporting an increase in spending for education, health care, and social services. She even gained a leadership role within the House as the Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus.
In 1983, Shirley retired from Congress but continued to support women in politics co-founding the National Political Congress of Black Women. She also became a professor at Mount Holyoke College teaching courses in politics and sociology in addition to speaking at campuses around the country about tolerance and acceptance. In 1993, Shirley was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Shirley Chisholm died January 1, 2005, at the age of 80.
After her death, a documentary film about her presidential campaign was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival and won a Peabody Award. At her alma mater Brooklyn College, the Shirley Chisholm Project on Brooklyn Women’s Activism is a historical collection of “Brooklyn Women’s Activism from 1945 to the Present.” And in 2015, she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. With historical moments like the presidency of Barack Obama and nomination of Hillary Clinton, Shirley’s legacy lives on. Thank you, Shirley, for paving the way for those who have followed you.



The information for this post came from Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls.

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This is my first post honoring women during Black History Month.  Please take a moment to get to know Septima who is considered the Grandmother of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Woman Who Schooled the Civil Rights Movement
Erin Blakemore
Feb 16, 2016

Who was the “queen mother” of the American Civil Rights movement? If you answered “Rosa Parks,” you’re wrong—a woman named Septima Poinsette Clark earned that moniker for her pioneering civil rights work years before Parks made her fateful ride. The daughter of a slave, Clark made her mark on the movement not in a bus or at a lunch counter, but in the classroom.

Born in Charleston, S.C., Clark was one of eight children. Her father, Peter Poinsette, was forced to serve as a messenger to Confederate troops as a young slave during the Civil War. After the war, he married Victoria, who grew up a free black in Haiti and resented her husband’s nonviolent attitude towards the racial repression of the postwar South. Both of them instilled their daughter with a love of education and made sacrifices on behalf of her schooling, so it made sense for Septima to become a teacher.

But when she got her teaching license, she realized she would not be able to teach any children—black or white—in her native Charleston. “Segregation was at its height,” she later recalled, and black teachers were barred from teaching any students in South Carolina’s capital. For a while, she taught on John’s Island outside of Charleston instead, but in 1919 she joined the NAACP and returned to her hometown. Emboldened, she went from door to door, collecting signatures of black parents who wanted their children educated by black teachers in Charleston schools. Eventually, two-thirds of the city’s black population signed the petition. A year later, Charleston’s ban on black teachers was overturned.

Clark could have settled into life as an elementary school teacher, but she kept pushing. Along with other NAACP members, she began to agitate for higher salaries for black teachers. It took her more than 20 years to help win equal pay for her colleagues, but in 1945 teacher pay was equalized.

As the NAACP began to rack up victories, pressure to declaw the organization mounted from whites who clung to the South’s Jim Crow policies. Clark was fired from her job in 1957 for refusing to renounce her membership in the NAACP under a law that forbade public employees to belong to the organization. At almost 60 years of age, Clark was ousted from the profession that was her vocation.
But Clark’s career was only just beginning. A few years before being fired, she had discovered a Tennessee school that featured integrated workshops on citizenship and civil rights. She began to teach literacy there, educating black students about citizenship laws and civil rights.

This commitment to educating her fellow black citizens came with a price: The state of Tennessee revoked the school’s charter, forcibly closed down its buildings and arrested teachers on bogus charges. Clark was accused of illegal alcohol possession and arrested, though the charges were later dropped. When she was released from jail, Clark was invited to continue her work in Georgia by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The “Citizenship School” model she started became a juggernaut. It helped fill educational gaps left by segregated school systems that made black students the last priority.

The classes Clark established schooled thousands of students in basic literacy and civil rights, producing savvy new voters and changing the course of the Civil Rights movement. Among her mentees was Rosa Parks, who openly admired her patience and courage.

Though Clark’s work took place in the background—and was often minimized by male leaders in the movement—the fight for racial equality in the United States simply would not have been the same without one teacher bent on making the most of her hard-won education. “The greatest evil in our country today is not racism, but ignorance,” Clark wrote in 1965. By bringing education to the struggle for civil rights, Clark fought both.



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What follows was written about her in BIOGRAPHY.COM

Born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou is known for her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman. In 1971, Angelou published the Pulitzer Prize-nominated poetry collection Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die. She later wrote the poem “On the Pulse of Morning”—one of her most famous works—which she recited at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. Angelou received several honors throughout her career, including two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary work (nonfiction) category, in 2005 and 2009. She died on May 28, 2014.

Early Years

Multi-talented barely seems to cover the depth and breadth of Maya Angelou’s accomplishments. She was an author, actress, screenwriter, dancer and poet. Born Marguerite Annie Johnson, Angelou had a difficult childhood. Her parents split up when she was very young, and she and her older brother, Bailey, were sent to live with their father’s mother, Anne Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas.

As an African American, Angelou experienced firsthand racial prejudices and discrimination in Arkansas. She also suffered at the hands of a family associate around the age of 7: During a visit with her mother, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Then, as vengeance for the sexual assault, Angelou’s uncles killed the boyfriend. So traumatized by the experience, Angelou stopped talking. She returned to Arkansas and spent years as a virtual mute.

During World War II, Angelou moved to San Francisco, California, where she won a scholarship to study dance and acting at the California Labor School. Also during this time, Angelou became the first black female cable car conductor—a job she held only briefly, in San Francisco.

In 1944, a 16-year-old Angelou gave birth to a son, Guy (a short-lived high school relationship had led to the pregnancy), thereafter working a number of jobs to support herself and her child. In 1952, the future literary icon wed Anastasios Angelopulos, a Greek sailor from whom she took her professional name—a blend of her childhood nickname, “Maya,” and a shortened version of his surname.

Career Beginnings

In the mid-1950s, Angelou’s career as a performer began to take off. She landed a role in a touring production of Porgy and Bess, later appearing in the off-Broadway production Calypso Heat Wave (1957) and releasing her first album, Miss Calypso (1957). A member of the Harlem Writers Guild and a civil rights activist, Angelou organized and starred in the musical revue Cabaret for Freedom as a benefit for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, also serving as the SCLC’s northern coordinator.

In 1961, Angelou appeared in an off-Broadway production of Jean Genet’s The Blacks with James Earl Jones, Lou Gossett Jr. and Cicely Tyson. While the play earned strong reviews, Angelou moved on to other pursuits, spending much of the 1960s abroad; she first lived in Egypt and then in Ghana, working as an editor and a freelance writer. Angelou also held a position at the University of Ghana for a time.

After returning to the United States, Angelou was urged by friend and fellow writer James Baldwin to write about her life experiences. Her efforts resulted in the enormously successful 1969 memoir about her childhood and young adult years, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman. The poignant work also made Angelou an international star.

Since publishing Caged Bird, Angelou continued to break new ground—not just artistically, but educationally and socially. She wrote the drama Georgia, Georgia in 1972—becoming the first African-American woman to have her screenplay produced—and went on to earn a Tony Award nomination for her role in the play Look Away (1973) and an Emmy Award nomination for her work on the television miniseries Roots (1977), among other honors.

Later Successes

Angelou wrote several autobiographies throughout her career, including All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986) and A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002), but 1969’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings continues to be regarded as her most popular autobiographical work. She also published several collections of poetry, including Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die (1971), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

One of Angelou’s most famous works is the poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” which she wrote especially for and recited at President Bill Clinton’s inaugural ceremony in January 1993—marking the first inaugural recitation since 1961, when Robert Frost delivered his poem “The Gift Outright” at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Angelou went on to win a Grammy Award (best spoken word album) for the audio version of the poem.

In 1995, Angelou was lauded for remaining on The New York Times’ paperback nonfiction best-seller list for two years—the longest-running record in the chart’s history.

Seeking new creative challenges, Angelou made her directorial debut in 1998 with Down in the Delta, starring Alfre Woodard. She also wrote a number of inspirational works, from the essay collection Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1994) to her advice for young women in Letter to My Daughter (2008). Interested in health, Angelou has even published cookbooks, including Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories With Recipes (2005) and Great Food, All Day Long (2010).

Angelou’s career has seen numerous accolades, including the Chicago International Film Festival’s 1998 Audience Choice Award and a nod from the Acapulco Black Film Festival in 1999 for Down in the Delta; and two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary work (nonfiction) category, for her 2005 cookbook and 2008’s Letter to My Daughter.
Personal Life

Martin Luther King Jr., a close friend of Angelou’s, was assassinated on her birthday (April 4) in 1968. Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for years afterward, and sent flowers to King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, for more than 30 years, until Coretta’s death in 2006.
Angelou was good friends with TV personality Oprah Winfrey, who organized several birthday celebrations for the award-winning author, including a week-long cruise for her 70th birthday in 1998.

After experiencing health issues for a number of years, Maya Angelou died on May 28, 2014, at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The news of her passing spread quickly with many people taking to social media to mourn and remember Angelou. Singer Mary J. Blige and politician Cory Booker were among those who tweeted their favorite quotes by her in tribute. President Barack Obama also issued a statement about Angelou, calling her “a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman.” Angelou “had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer,” he wrote.



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Daisy Bates
Publisher, Civil Rights Activist, Journalist (1914–1999)

Civil rights activist, writer, publisher, Daisy Lee Gatson was born on November 11, 1914, in Huttig, Arkansas. As a teenager, Bates met Lucious Christopher “L.C.” Bates, an insurance agent and an experienced journalist. The couple married in the early 1940s and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. Together they operated the Arkansas State Press, a weekly African-American newspaper. The paper championed civil rights, and Bates joined in the civil rights movement. She became the president of Arkansas chapter of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1952.

As the head of the NAACP’s Arkansas branch, Bates played a crucial role in the fight against segregation. In 1954, the United States Supreme Court declared that school segregation was unconstitutional in the landmark case known as Brown v. Board of Education. Even after that ruling, African American students who tried to enroll in white schools were turned away in Arkansas. Bates and her husband chronicled this battle in their newspaper.

Little Rock Nine

In 1957, she helped nine African American students to become the first to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, who became known as the Little Rock Nine. The group first tried to go to the school on September 4. A group of angry whites jeered at them as they arrived. The governor, Orval Faubus, opposed school integration and sent members of the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the students from entering the school. Despite the enormous amount of animosity they faced from white residents of the city, the students were undeterred from their mission to attend the school.

Bates’ home became the headquarters for the battle to integrate Central High School and she served as a personal advocate and supporter to the students. President Dwight D. Eisenhower became involved in the conflict and ordered federal troops to go to Little Rock to uphold the law and protect the Little Rock Nine. With U.S. soldiers providing security, the Little Rock Nine left from Bates’ home for their first day of school on September 25, 1957. Bates remained close with the Little Rock Nine, offering her continuing support as they faced harassment and intimidation from people against desegregation.

Later Activism

Bates also received numerous threats, but this would not stop her from her work. The newspaper she and her husband worked on was closed in 1959 because of low adverting revenue. Three years later, her account of the school integration battle was published as The Long Shadow of Little Rock. For a few years, she moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the Democratic National Committee and on antipoverty projects for the Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration.

Bates returned to Little Rock in the mid-1960s and spent much of her time on community programs. After the death of her husband in 1980, she also resuscitated their newspaper for several years, from 1984 to 1988. Bates died on November 4, 1999, Little Rock, Arkansas.

For her career in social activism, Bates received numerous awards, including an honorary degree from the University of Arkansas. She is best remembered as a guiding force behind one of the biggest battles for school integration in the nation’s history.

The Biography.com website


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