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Anonymous Donor Funds CUNY's First-Ever Women's Study Chair at Brooklyn College

Shirley Chisholm Day, November 30, Celebrated at the Late Congresswoman's Brooklyn College Alma Mater
Governor Pataki to Attend Ceremonial Signing of New York State Legislation

In 1972, Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) became the first black woman to run for president of the United States.

Throughout her life, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, a 1946 graduate of Brooklyn College, battled racism, sexism, militarism, and poverty. To celebrate Chisholm’s achievement, her birthday, November 30, has been designated a day of commemoration by the New York State Legislature. Brooklyn College will host a daylong event with film screenings, panel discussions, and a ceremonial signing of the legislation by Governor Pataki.

“Shirley Chisholm’s life and political contribution represent everything that is positive about our Women’s Studies Program, Brooklyn College, and the borough of Brooklyn. This is why we dedicated our research center in Chisholm’s name last year,” said Associate Professor of Health and Nutrition Sciences Patricia Antoniello, director of the Shirley Chisholm Center for Research on Women. “She is the embodiment of the hopes of so many of our students—even today.”

The Shirley Chisholm commemoration will be held at the Brooklyn College Student Center, located on Campus Road at East 27 Street. Chisholm ’72, Unbought and Unbossed, a documentary about Chisholm’s life, will be shown at 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. Shola Lynch, the filmmaker, will be on hand to discuss the film after both screenings.

At noon, Brooklyn College President Christoph M. Kimmich will welcome guest speakers, including: New York State Assemblyman N. Nick Perry; Deputy Borough President Yvonne Graham; Shola Lynch, filmmaker; Judge Emily Jane Goodman, '61, longtime activist in the New York City women’s movement; and Janet Braun-Reinitz and Jane Weissman of Artmakers Inc., the community muralists behind “When Women Pursue Justice," a mural recently dedicated to Chisholm that features fourteen women activists, including Dorothy Day, Angela Davis, Fanny Lou Hamer, and Margaret Sanger. The mural can be seen on the corner of Greene and Nostrand Avenues, in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

A reception, beginning at 4 p.m., will conclude the day’s events. A highlight of the reception will take place when Governor Pataki, joined by invited elected officials, will participate in a symbolic signing of the legislation making November 30 Shirley Chisholm Day in New York.

“Many people in Brooklyn knew Shirley Chisholm and were affected by her. They will have a chance to remember and share how she touched their lives with youth who may not know her story,” said Barbara Winslow, professor in the School of Education and the coordinator of the Women’s Studies Program. “Our local assemblyman, Nick Perry, has arranged sponsorship for the Shirley Chisholm Women’s Leadership Scholar; the student selected will receive a full scholarship and a paid internship with an elected official.”

Chisholm, daughter of immigrants, majored in sociology at Brooklyn College and became active when she encountered racial discrimination. When African American students were denied admittance to a social club, Chisholm organized clubs for black students. She was a member of the debating society, an experience she later said influenced her "cut and thrust" rhetorical style.

In 1968 she became the first African American woman elected to Congress, representing Brooklyn’s 12th congressional district. An ardent feminist, Chisholm was a cofounder of the National Women’s Political Caucus and once remarked, “Women in this country must become revolutionaries. We must refuse to accept the old, the traditional roles and stereotypes.”

Chisholm’s legacy has served Brooklyn College as well as the borough of Brooklyn. As a member of the New York State Assembly from 1964 to 1968, she coauthored legislation that instituted SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge), an educational program that provides funding and guidance to disadvantaged youth. As a Congressperson, she introduced a bill that secured unemployment insurance for domestics and daycare providers. She obtained federal funding for daycare facilities and campaigned for a higher minimum wage.

Chisholm is best known for becoming the first woman from a major political party to run for the presidency, in 1972. Although she did not win the nomination, she received 151 delegate votes. She served in the U.S. House of Representatives until 1982. She passed away on January 1, 2005.

The event honoring her achievement is sponsored by Brooklyn College, the Women’s Studies Program, and the Shirley Chisholm Center for Research on Women. For more information about Shirley Chisholm Day, contact the Women’s Studies Program at (718) 951-5476.