The Chisholm Project

A repository of women's grassroots social activism in Brooklyn since 1945

“She is a Visionary”: Dr. Fraser & Tavis Smiley on Chisholm’s Unbought & Unbossed Legacy

“What’s extraordinary about Chisholm is that you have people who hated her and people who loved her—but in many ways they all respected her…They admired her for her consistency, they admired her for her fervor, and they admired her for her intelligence.”

—Dr. Zinga Fraser on the Tavis Smiley Show on KBLA 1580 Talk Radio.

Yesterday, the Director of the Shirley Chisholm Project joined journalist Tavis Smiley in a conversation commemorating Shirley Chisholm’s 98th birthday as well as the 50th anniversary of her groundbreaking campaign for the U.S. presidency.

Shirley Chisholm, circa 1972 [from the Shirley Chisholm Project Archives].

In a wide-ranging interview, Smiley and Dr. Fraser discussed Shirley Chisholm as an orator, truth-teller, strategist, presidential candidate, radical intellectual and people’s champion.

Remarking on Chisholm’s willingness to speak out on issues of inequality in the 60′ and 70’s, Smiley asked about Chisholm’s role as a progressive visionary. Dr. Fraser pointed out it’s important to remember her as “a thoughtful and strategic leader,” not merely a political symbol.

“Beyond being the first of anything”, Prof. Fraser explained, “she made a way to think about progressive politics, what it looked like, and how it is embodied by people who had a certain kind of integrity.”

TAVIS SMILEY: What, then—to your mind—is her enduring, her abiding legacy?

DR. FRASER: Her abiding legacy is…being unbought and unbossed…That’s not just about having the will and strategy to go against the grain; a telltale sign of being unbought and unbossed is the ability to accept the wrath of people who don’t agree with you…In many ways, it’s Chisholm’s fierceness in being unbought and unbossed and being connected to people that provides a political legacy for years to come.

Follow this link to hear Dr. Fraser’s full interview with Tavis Smiley on Spotify:

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