Celebrating Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm

It’s been 50 years since Shirley Chisholm was elected to the U.S. Congress and took Washington, D.C., by storm. 

A lot of men didn’t know what to do with her. She was the first Black congresswoman and she made such a splash that many women were listening and were inspired to run for Congress and all kinds of offices to serve the people. When I ran for Congress in Louisiana, she was one of the first persons to send a check. 

Shirley didn’t do or say things because they were politically wise. She said and did things that were morally right, and never worried about what others would think. When she ran for president of the United States, she didn’t ask anybody’s permission. 

She was proud of being “Unbought and Unbossed,” and that’s why so many of us loved her and wanted to come as close to being like Shirley as we could.

Recognizing our own 

I’m honored to serve as national president of the organization she founded, along with Dr. C. DeLores Tucker. Shirley served as the first leader of our organization that is now known as the National Congress of Black Women. On Sept. 15 at the Marriott Wardman Hotel in Washington, we remember Shirley Chisholm’s 50th year of her election at our 35th annual brunch.

We’ve named an annual award in her honor. The first two recipients of the Shirley Chisholm Courage Award  are Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar, two Black women who are part of the “Squad.” We’ve chosen them because of the courage they’ve exhibited in an effort to make changes so needed in our nation. 

NCBW will also honor the other three newly elected Black congresswomen with our Sojourner Truth Award. NCBW was responsible for placing the Sojourner Truth statue in the U.S. Capitol, making her the first Black woman to be honored with a memorial there. 

More honorees 

The three other congresswomen who were elected in 2018 are Jahana Hayes, Lauren Underwood and Lucy McBath. They have played an important role in helping Nancy Pelosi to become speaker of the House again, and assisting Democrats in regaining a House majority. 

Others have proven to be Unbought and Unbossed and will be honored for breaking new ground in major corporations. Two of the honorees are Shelley Sylva and Kelly Cornish. Dr. Linda James Myers and Dr. Monica L. Clement, two Black women responsible for developing new methods for healing the wounds of circumstance, will be honored. 

Honoring men, too 

Lest you think NCBW only honors women, included among the honorees who will receive the NCBW Dick Gregory Good Brother Award are Dr. Percy Thomas, Atty. Jack Olender, Dr. Hemant Patel, Dr. Jay Patel, Dr. James Dail, Attorney Aaron Watson and Attorney Jack Olender. 

We must honor and protect the names of those who take courageous steps on our behalf. If we don’t tell their stories, they won’t be told or will often be distorted.


Dr. E. Faye Williams is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. Contact her via www.nationalcongressbw.org.

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