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Clarke’s bill would put statue of Chisholm in U.S. Capitol

Pioneering Brooklyn Black Congresswoman paved the way for many others

April 4, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Brooklyn Congressmember Yvette Clarke has joined with Georgia’s Sen. Raphael Warnock to introduce H.R. 2198/S. 1032, which would direct the feds’ Joint Committee on the Library to obtain a statue of Shirley Chisholm and place it in the U.S. Capitol.

In 1968, Shirley Chisholm, a former teacher and state Assemblymember, became the first Black woman to serve in Congress after she was elected to represent New York’s 12th District, which at that time included much of Central Brooklyn. This action would become the first of many firsts for Chisholm, who was born in Brooklyn but spent part of her childhood in Barbados.

In 1969, she co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus, and in 1972, she became the first Black woman and first Caribbean-American woman to seek the nomination for president from a major political party, paving the way for Vice President Kamala Harris’s own run for the presidency many years later. Her slogan was “Unbought and Unbossed.” The Democratic nomination that year went to Sen. George McGovern.

“From her efforts to expand family healthcare services to her fight for a higher minimum wage to her commitment to ensuring women and minorities had the necessary tools to overcome discrimination and oppression, Chisholm’s dedication to fairness and equality never wavered,” Rep. Clarke’s office said in a statement.

“Today, our country has a Black woman (Vice President Harris) serving in our executive branch. We need to show young people this is not something that happened by accident. It took passion and dedication. It took someone who was unbought and unbossed,” said Clarke, whose district stretches from Park Slope east to Brownsville, then south to Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach.

“Honoring Shirley Chisholm with a statue in the halls of the Capitol does more than memorialize her life. It proves to the millions of Black girls and women in this country that if they achieve, if they strive for greatness, if they better their country and this world, they too may be honored eternally in the United States Capitol,” she added.

Today, the U.S. Capitol houses just one full-length statue of a Black woman, that of civil rights icon Rosa Parks. Within the year, it is expected to honor Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council for Negro Women, with her own full-length statue.

“As the first Black women ever elected to Congress and one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Shirley Chisholm wasn’t just a trailblazer, she was an architect of the progress our nation has made toward justice and equality. Always speaking truth to power, Congresswoman Chisholm pushed our nation to secure the blessings of liberty for all of its citizens,” said Warnock.

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