Almost no one thought she would make it.
But on July 13th 1972, Shirley Chisholm proved the detractors wrong by making it to the Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach and becoming the first Black woman to be entered into nomination for the U.S. presidency.
In addition to being the first woman and the first Black person to be entered into nomination a major party convention, Chisholm’s achievement was significant for other reasons. When she declared her candidacy in January of that year, she entered into the most crowded primary field the country had yet seen. And despite running a national campaign on a shoestring budget and without the support of the political establishment, she outlasted better-connected and better financed candidates like Senator Edmund Muskie (the front-runner in the early stages of the contest) and New York Mayor John Lindsay, who both dropped out before the Convention.
By making it to Miami Beach, Chisholm fulfilled her promise to maintain pressure on the primary front-runners throughout the nominating contest. She had vowed to “keep them honest” on the campaign trail as they sought the people’s votes and she continued to do as the front-runners negotiated for delegates behind the scenes. At every stage, she fought to ensure that the interests of impoverished and marginalized people were taken seriously by those who claimed to represent them.
As Percy Sutton put it when entering the Congresswoman’s name into nomination:
“All Americans are indebted to Shirley Chisholm Shirley whose tireless efforts to inject new lifeblood into an ailing and unresponsive political system are to be crowned by the submission of her name to you tonight. Chisholm, this lady of courage, in the course of her candidacy, has launched a direct and unyielding attack against all forms of human prejudice and suffering.”