Representative Shirley Chisholm is a legend and because of one millennial woman, the “unbought and unbossed” Congresswoman will be receiving her just due.
During March, news circulated that political powerhouses Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) are sponsoring legislation to place a statue of Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, in the U.S. Capitol. If this legislation is passed, Chisholm will become the second black woman to receive a full statue in the U.S. Capitol.
Chisholm, was a champion of representation and equality for women and African-Americans while exemplifying pushing for change. Her trailblazing legacy paved the way for women of all demographics to run for elected office. In 1972, Chisholm ran her campaign for the White House with the slogan “Unbought and Unbossed,” during a time when political bosses maintained a large sphere of influence. Chisholm prided herself on being an opponent of the Vietnam War and champion of social-justice movements. Though she did not win the Presidency, she did inspire others.
While this announcement has continued to make waves; it hasn’t been noted that the proposed legislation was conceptualized by a young woman, Danyelle Carter. Currently, Carter serves as the Director of Communications and Public Affairs for Her Communications Agency as well as the Digital Press Secretary to Rep. Val B. Demings.
In conversation with us, Carter discussed the journey to getting Chisholm recognized, the importance of representation and much more.
The journey to getting Chisholm recognized began in March 2013 when, then Spelman College student Carter, toured the Capitol Visitors Center and was shocked to see the lack of African-American women who were honored with a State statue.
“I was so disappointed to see the lack of Black women being represented in the National Statuary Hall collection, especially when thinking of the many contributions Black women have made for this country. I knew something had to be done and I needed to be the one to do it. Getting a statue of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm in the Capitol has been a dream of mine since 2013,” Carter remarked.
Disheartened by what she saw in the Capitol, Carter returned to Spelman and began researching what goes into getting a statue in the Capitol. Through her research, she learned there are only four statues or busts of Black Americans in the Capitol including Frederick Douglass (statue), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (bust), Sojourner Truth (bust) and Rosa Parks (statue).
These statistics did not deter Carter from her mission to see Chisholm receive this honor. Carter who said: “After I completed more research on the process, I sincerely felt that Shirley Chisholm needed this statue. Her ascension to Congress and her list of achievements spoke to me. From her advocating for improved nutritional assistance programs to becoming the first Black candidate for a major party’s nomination for the President of the United States. She needs to be highlighted because she laid the foundation for where we are as a country and generation today. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm is an American legend.”
In 2016 while Carter served as the Press Assistant and Legislative Support on Women & Girls Issues to Clarke, she shared her hope of procuring a statue of Chisholm to Representative Clarke. Clarke, the first Vice Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and a leading figure in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has long championed Chisholm’s legacy.
After being advised by Clarke to share her idea at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Sojourner Truth Legacy Project monthly breakfast meetings, she earned an overwhelming amount of support from many women including Rep. Barbara Lee, who worked with Chisholm.
Armed with new zeal and inspiration, Carter wrote the first draft of the legislation in November 2016 and a second in December 2016. Thirteen months later, Carter learned that Clarke and Senator Kamala Harris are joining forces to obtain a statue of Chisholm for placement in the United States Capitol.
Carter, Rep. Clarke and Sen. Harris are exemplifying the principles Chisholm championed. These women are working together and across generations to achieve a common goal of honoring an American trailblazer.
This year marks two significant anniversaries in the legacy Chisholm left. The first being the 50th anniversary of Chisholm’s 1968 election to the House. The second being 46 years since her 1972 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Fifty years later the woman who championed the rights of others is being celebrated by the leaders of today and tomorrow as the American “Unbought and Unbossed” legend she is. Chisholm, who died in 2005 at the age of 80, deserves to be recognized for the progress she made a half-century ago. The United States needs a reminder of the foundation Chisholm laid and this statue will do just that if erected.
After seeing the progress this proposed legislation has made Carter said, “It took a certain amount of years, but because Rep. Yvette Clarke and others believed in me this is happening. We are making strides and earning more support every day. I’m glad I could be apart of this movement just by being persistent and believing in representation for Black women. As a whole, Black women need to make sure we are working across generations to achieve our goals because they are indeed the same. With the right support, we can make things happen. I’m thrilled that Shirley Chisholm is getting recognized and I recognize that this can open the door for many others.”
Image Sources: Primary Source Nexus