Obituary: Shirley Chisholm

Article excerpt

SHE was black, she was a woman and she was born to poor immigrant parents. But in a time when the flames of race riots were still raging in American cities in the wake of the death of Martin Luther King (1968), she decided that her future lay in politics.

But the first black woman to serve in the House of Representatives never used her colour or her sex as a token.

In 1972, when she was seeking to be the Democratic candidate to oppose President Nixon, she said: ``I am not the candidate of special interests. I am the candidate of the people. ''

In truth, she recognised that she had no hope of standing for the presidency, but she contested several primaries and won the backing of 151 delegates.

Shirley Anita St Hill was born in New York. Her father, from British Guiana, worked in a burlap factory and her mother was a seamstress.

Unable to afford a good education in the US, the couple sent Shirley to her grandmother in Barbados, where she attended a British-style school and developed a clipped accent.

Back in America in the 1940s, she began studying sociology at Brooklyn University, but was barred from the social club because of her colour - an insult she overturned by starting a rival club. …