Film Portrays Shirley Chisholm as Political Pathfinder
BY WHITNEY GIBSON
(Hollywood) — Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968. Determined to represent the millions of Americans she felt were overlooked, she did what was at that time unthinkable— she ran for the highest office the nation.
LACC hosted a virtual viewing of “Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed” on March 18. The 2005 documentary was directed by Shola Lynch and reflects on Chisholm’s historic 1972 bid for the presidency as both the first black person and first woman ever to run.
The film portrays Chisholm–in vintage clips from her candidacy and interviews from later in her life-as a woman facing insurmountable opposition head-on because she believed everyone should be represented.
The film is speckled with interviews from many notable figures, like acclaimed writer Octavia Butler and California Congresswoman Barbara Lee. It highlights the steep climb black women endure on their way to Capitol Hill.
Following the viewing, there was a discussion lead by moderators and LACC professors Christina Heisser and Anika Jackson. The topics ranged from intersectionality to the erasure of black women from historical retellings.
The sentiment that Chisholm’s story is under-told seemed to resonate in the discussion forum. One anonymous person in the chat asked, “Why have I never heard of her before?”
History professor Heisser put it bluntly.
“Well, racism,” she said.
Heisser went on to expand upon black women’s erasure from the feminist movement, noting a historical trend of black women in America having a great political sway but receiving little credit for it.
Jackson, a political science professor, spoke about the electability conundrum wherein people don’t vote for women because they believe women cannot win. She also talked about advocacy groups for women who want to run for office, like Emily’s List.
What’s clear after the film and discussion is that while trailblazers like Chisholm have paved the way, women, particularly black women, still must work incredibly hard to succeed in the U.S. political system.
Kamala Harris became the first woman and first black person elected to Vice President and those intersections, being both black and a woman, carry history with them. In Vice President Harris’ election there are echoes of Chisholm’s work and what she did for the imagination of the American electorate by daring to imagine herself electable.
“Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed” is available to view on AmazonPrime.