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Zinga Fraser, PhD Featured in New York Times “2019 Belongs to Shirley Chisholm”

Representative Shirley Chisholm announcing her bid for the United States presidency on Jan. 25, 1972, at the Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn.
Credit Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

News Analysis

2019 Belongs to Shirley Chisholm

A feature film. A monument. Tattoos in her honor. People looking for a hero have found one in this one-woman precursor to today’s progressive politics.

Representative Shirley Chisholm announcing her bid for the United States presidency on Jan. 25, 1972, at the Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn.CreditCreditDon Hogan Charles/The New York Times

By Jennifer Steinhauer Ms. Steinhauer is a Times reporter.



Shirley Chisholm stares out from the side of a dozen coffee mugs these days, her epochal glasses, brocade dresses and distinct crown of curls recognizable trademarks of the most regenerative political figure in modern American culture.

As a number of new congresswomen begin to emerge in her image, Ms. Chisholm, who 50 years ago began her service as the first African-American woman in Congress, representing Brooklyn’s 12th District, is enjoying a resurgence of interest 14 years after her death.

The actor Viola Davis is producing and starring in a feature film about her, “The Fighting Shirley Chisholm,” and the congresswoman will be portrayed by the actress Uzo Aduba in the upcoming series “Mrs. America,” which chronicles the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

The Shirley Chisholm State Park — the largest state park in New York City — opened July 2 in Brooklyn. The congresswoman will soon be the first female historical figure to have a public monumentin Brooklyn. Representative Yvette Clarke, who holds the seat held by Ms. Chisholm, is working to get a statue of her placed in the United States Capitol.

This month, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, another Brooklyn Democrat, had a portrait of her made to hang in the office of the House Democratic Caucus — which he heads — on Capitol Hill. “The social, economic and social-justice fights that Shirley Chisholm once led have sharpened in the Trump era,” Mr. Jeffries said. Those forces have converged, he added, with “the logical attention to her 50th anniversary of becoming the first African-American woman in Congress.”

ImageA portrait of Shirley Chisholm, designed by Fiona Byon, was recently hung in the House Democratic Caucus office on Capitol Hill.
CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

John Stanton, a writer in New Orleans, recently had a replica of the 2008 portrait of Ms. Chisholm that hangs in the Capitol tattooed on his knee. “People want heroes right now,” Mr. Stanton said, “and they’re looking for heroes that aren’t just straight white men.”

Before the feminist movement fueled a slow wave of new women into Congress, Ms. Chisholm was a one-woman precursor to modern progressive politics. A community activist and educator who served briefly in the State Legislature, Ms. Chisholm decided to run for a House seat in 1968, her campaign centered squarely on gender; her primary opponent repeatedly suggested that a man was better suited to represent the area in Washington.

An advocate for the poor and working class, Ms. Chisholm employed a pre-Instagram method of direct engagement, a sound truck that she rolled up to Brooklyn housing projects bellowing, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is fighting Shirley Chisholm coming through.”


Shirley Chisholm talking with youngsters and constituents in 1969 at a Police Athletic League block party on Rodney Street in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Credit Jack Manning/The New York Times

As the first African-American woman in Congress, Ms. Chisholm was often frozen out by men of all races and felt alienated by the feminist movement. In a 1974 speech at the University of Missouri, she said: “It is quite understandable why black women in the majority are not interested in walking and picketing a cocktail lounge which historically has refused to open its doors a certain two hours a day when men who have just returned from Wall Street gather in said lounge to exchange bits of business transactions that occurred on the market. This is a middle-class white woman’s issue.” Her efforts took years to be replicated. “You now have 20 black women in Congress,” Ms. Clarke said. “She was the only one.”

In 1972, Ms. Chisholm became the first African-American woman to seek the nomination of a major party for president of the United States. Thinking she could consolidate black, female and working-class voters under her campaign slogan and theme, “Unbought and Unbossed,” she ran up hard against the political realities and institutional sexism and racism of the era.


A pamphlet advertising Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 presidential campaign.
Credit Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History

Ms. Chisholm was initially blocked from a televised debate, was derided by many of her black male colleagues in Congress who thought she had overstepped and was abandoned by white feminists like Gloria Steinem. But her unsuccessful run sealed her legacy as an unapologetic antiwar, feminist and working-class advocate, work she pursued until retiring from Congress in 1983. (In a twist, she also formed a genuine friendship with a presidential opponent, George Wallace, the former pro-segregationist governor of Alabama, and visited him in the hospital after he was shot.)

“A number of scholars have been doing a lot of work to expand the discourse on Shirley Chisholm for about six years knowing that there would be the 50th anniversary of her election to Congress,” said Zinga A. Fraser, director of the Shirley Chisholm Project on Brooklyn Women’s Activism at Brooklyn College. Still, “Hillary Clinton did not evoke her during her campaign,” Ms. Fraser said. “Neither did Barack Obama.”


Rep. Chisholm, talking to visitors from Berea College on the steps of the Capitol in 1970.
Credit Mike Lien/The New York Times

Her speeches were of particular interest to Alphonso David, who is counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and who sponsored the exhibit honoring Ms. Chisholm in a state office building. “They defined empowerment,” he said, noting remarks at Howard University in 1969 that resonate today. She said, “Just as the picket line and the lunch counter demonstrations and the boycotts were dramatic and effective weapons of protest for the civil rights movement, the polling place is the new phase in the new thrust of the black man’s bid for equality of opportunity.”

Representative Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, was given Ms. Chisholm’s office in the Longworth House Office Building by her colleague, Representative Katie Hill, who had drawn it in the office lottery. “I feel a soul tie to Shirley Chisholm,” Ms. Pressley said. “The vibe of her office fills me with the courage to boldly lead, boldly legislate, and to never forget those who sent me here.” Ms. Pressley was one of many women who evoked Ms. Chisholm during their 2018 congressional campaigns.


Congresswomen Shirley A. Chisholm, speaking to reporters in 1973.
CreditTyrone Dukes/The New York Times

The former Representative Charles Rangel, who served from 1971 to 2017, said Ms. Chisholm’s “newly found recognition” was “fully due to this new women’s movement.” He added, “Shirley did not get this type of support from men or women at the time. We always wait until somebody dies to do what we wish we had done while they were alive.”

Jennifer Steinhauer is a Times reporter focused on veterans’ issues and the author of the forthcoming book “The Firsts,” a chronicle of the first year of the women of the 116th Congress.


A version of this article appears in print on , on Page SR2 of the New York edition with the headline: 2019 Belongs to Shirley Chisholm. 

Source: © 2019 The New York Times Company

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1/21/19 8PM CUNY TV Broadcast of Dr. Sonia Sanchez interview by Dr. Zinga Fraser

Monday, January 21, 2019 at 8pm, CUNY TV will be broadcasting our Conversation with Sonia Sanchez!

If you didn’t get to join us for Chisholm Day, please tune in tonight! In her dialogue with Chisholm Project Director Zinga A. Fraser, PhD, Dr. Sanchez spoke about Chisholm’s legacy, and also her own work as an activist and poet, against the backdrop of the Black Freedom Movement.

Guest List

Dr. Una S.T. Clarke Trustee, The City University of New York

Deborah Peaks Coleman Director, Delta Research and Educational Foundation

Dr. Zinga A. Fraser Director of the Shirley Chisholm Project and Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies, CUNY Brooklyn College

Sonia Sanchez Author


Online: http://www.cuny.tv/show/cunytv/PR2008177 DIGITAL Ch. ALSO: 25.3, and cablecast in the five boroughs of New York City on Ch. 75 (Time Warner and Cablevision Brooklyn), Ch. 77 (RCN Cable), and Ch. 30 (Verizon FiOS). You don’t want to miss it!!!

Via The Shirley Chisholm Project



Please contact us so we can provide more information about being interviewed and/or donating memorabilia to the project.


You may do so by making a tax-deductible contribution to the Brooklyn College Foundation.

  1. Go to: The Brooklyn College Foundation Website.
  2. Complete the online donation form.
  3. In the “Fund Designation” box, please type: Shirley Chisholm Archive: 30303085
  1. Please make all checks payable to The Brooklyn College Foundation.
  2. In the memo of the check or in a note included with your contribution, please indicate that your gift supports the Shirley Chisholm Archive: 30303085
  3. Mail your gift to the following address:The Brooklyn College Foundation
    2900 Bedford Avenue
    Brooklyn, NY 11210

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Zinga A. Fraser, PhD featured in USA Today

“Unbought and unbossed: Shirley Chisholm blazed multiple trails” 

By , USA TODAY Published 5:31 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2018 | Updated 9:13 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2018

Professor Zinga A. Fraser featured along with Rep. Yvette Clark, Senator Kamala Harris, Rep. Maxine Waters and several others on the importance of Shirley Chisholm.

“She is the first, at the time, really trying to create a coalition of young people when she’s running for the presidency, a coalition of people of color, people of indigenous descent, African-Americans,” said Zinga A. Fraser, Ph.D, and director of the Shirley Chisholm Project on Brooklyn Women’s Activism. “She understood that one group alone could not elect a president.”

Source: USA Today

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Positively Black: The Shirley Chisholm Project on WNBC 11/20/16

Positively Black: The Shirley Chisholm Project on WNBC 11/20/16

Tracie Strahan sits down with Zinga A. Fraser, PhD the director of the Shirley Chisholm Project at Brooklyn College, to discuss Chisholm’s legacy and how the project honors her. You can go to www.chisholmproject.com for more information.


Image courtesy of NBC Universal

© 2016 NBCUniversal Media, LLC. All rights reserved.


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Watch Zinga A. Fraser, PhD on BBC World News Africa

Watch Zinga A. Fraser, PhD, Director of The Shirley Chisholm Project: Brooklyn Women’s Activism from 1945 to the Present at City University of New York, Brooklyn College on BBC World News Africa


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Dr. Zinga Fraser At Brooklyn Historical Society: “Women in Politics: Brooklyn & Beyond” 11/8/16

Professional Development

Professional Learning with Brooklyn Historical Society

Our professional development workshops for teachers at BHS and BLDG 92 provide teachers with a forum in which to engage with new scholarship in history, sustainable design, race and identity and related fields; practice pedagogical approaches in collaboration with colleagues; and learn about museum-based school programs and curricula.

Election Day Professional Learning Workshopszinga-fraser-2016-07-18

At Brooklyn Historical Society: “Women in Politics: Brooklyn & Beyond”
November 8, 2016, 8:30 am – 3:00 pm
Register Here, $25
With In Pursuit of Freedom digital curriculum and Dr. Zinga Fraser, director of the Shirley Chisholm Project.

On this historic Election Day, we will explore the role of women in politics in Brooklyn and beyond, and provide resources for bringing this important history into your classroom. We’ll consider political involvement broadly, from Shirley Chisholm’s congressional service and presidential campaign to Mary White Ovington and the NAACP to Maritcha Lyons’ influence in 19th century education for students of color. We’ll also mine BHS’s archives for opportunities to find women’s political contributions in primary sources that will broaden your students’ concept of American history.

The workshop is open to all NYC teachers, with primary source material best suited to grades 4 and up.

Fee includes breakfast & lunch.

Source: © Brooklyn Historical Society

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Brooklyn Historical Society Podcast Histories and Ideas: Interview with Zinga Fraser, PhD about Shirley Chisholm

02:43 – Histories and Ideas: Interview with Zinga Fraser about Shirley Chisholm

Segment 1: Histories and Ideas

After speaking with Zinga Fraser, PhD about Shirley Chisholm, we declared the interview nothing short of brilliant. We know you’ll think so too.

Zaheer, Zinga, and Julie

Zinga is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Brooklyn College and directs the Shirley Chisholm Project of Brooklyn Women’s Activism.

Source: Brooklyn Historical Society

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The Legacy of Shirley Chisholm ’46, Empowering Women and Marginalized Communities, Endures, Says Professor Zinga Fraser — NY1

Brooklyn College Students Study Shirley Chisholm’s ’72 Run for President

By Jeanine Ramirez
Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at 01:13 AM EDT

Brooklyn College Students Study Shirley Chisholm’s ’72 Run for President
By Jeanine Ramirez
Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at 01:13 AM EDT
03/16/2016 01:00 PM

Brooklyn College is marking a milestone with its women’s studies program. As we continue our coverage of Women’s History Month, we head to the Brooklyn campus for a look at feminism in 2016 and its role in politics.

It was more than four decades ago, but Shirley Chisholm’s historic bid for president in 1972 still resonates on the campus of the college where she’s a celebrated alumnus.

“It’s important that our students are connected to her legacy,” said Director of the college’s Shirley Chisholm Project, Zinga Fraser.

Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress in 1968 and the first to launch a serious bid for president. Fraser says part of the teachings here is how Chisholm created a coalition of marginalized communities as part of her campaign.

“We’ve got to have persons who have the courage to really tell it like it really is,” Chisholm said.

This year students in the Women’s and Gender Studies program, now marking its 40th year, are looking at Chisholm’s 1972 campaign and what it means for a woman to be president. With that, Hillary Clinton becomes the subject of discussion.

“I feel like in political discussion everyone want the first woman president and never discusses what her terms are what she has planned and I think there’s a difference between voting for someone because they’re a woman and voting for someone because they’re right,” said student Bryanna Ajodha.

“I don’t think Hillary Clinton being a woman automatically makes her great for women,” said student Brian Cordero. “Not that she’s objectively bad for them but I don’t like to see that correlation being made.”

Fraser says the feminist movement from the 1960s has evolved beyond symbolism, yet women in politics still endure unique hurdles.

“Feminists, at least in my class, are very nuanced,” Fraser said. “They can understand the sexism and misogyny that Hillary Clinton in many ways has to endure because she’s a woman but still are connected to progressive politics.”

That’s why Chisholm’s political influence endures. The Brooklyn trailblazer will continue to be part of the curriculum here as political cycles come and go.

The women’s and gender studies program will have its 40th anniversary celebration March 31.

Source: NY1

Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
© 1999-2016 Time Warner Cable Enterprises LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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Legacy of Trailblazer Shirley Chisholm ’46 Highlighted at Annual Speaker Series

Nov. 16, 2015

Shirley Chisholm ’46 (center) announced her groundbreaking presidential candidacy, supported by celebrities like actor Ossie Davis (right).

“What would it mean if President Obama or Hillary Clinton evoked Shirley Chisholm’s name?” asks Zinga A. Fraser Ph.D., the new director of the Shirley Chisholm Project on Brooklyn Women’s Activism, “because, in many ways, she not only paves the way for them, she provides a trajectory and strategy on how to create political coalitions that cross boundaries.”

Fraser, a former endowed post-doctoral fellow in women’s and gender studies and recipient of the American Political Science Association‘s 2014 Byran Jackson Dissertation Research on Minority Politics Award, has organized this year’s Shirley Chisholm Day talk, held on Nov. 17 in the Penthouse of the Brooklyn College Student Center. The keynote address will be delivered by Robin Kelley, the Gary B. Nash Professor of American History at the University of California-Los Angeles. The annual event celebrates the legacy of Shirley Chisholm ’46, who became the first major-party black candidate for president of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“She provides what Professor Kelley identifies as ‘the freedom dream’—that is, how we can reimagine and understand freedom, despite the outcome,” adds Fraser.

Chisholm’s memoir Unbought and Unbossed details her grassroots, community-building efforts among a wide variety of constituencies, including blacks, whites, Latinos, lower-income and middle-class families, women across demographics, and the LGBT community. Her work with the last group, Fraser says, was ahead of its time and often overlooked by scholars. It also illustrates how difficult forging these alliances can be, even in a place like Brooklyn, which, according to Fraser, has one of the highest numbers of black women elected to public office in the country.

Chief among her responsibilities, Zinga A. Fraser, Ph.D., the new director of the Brooklyn College Shirley Chisholm Project on Brooklyn Women’s Activism, is looking forward to promoting Chisholm’s continued importance to Brooklyn and beyond.


“Chisholm also tells us a great deal about the possibility and importance of learning from political failures,” says Fraser. “As much as her story is about the aspirational, groundbreaking work that she did, it’s also about the constraints in coalition building. In the end, it wasn’t her ability to connect these groups, but the inability of these groups to work together for a common cause. But even in her failure to get various coalitions to work collectively, she provides us with some of the playbook that would later be utilized by our current president.”

This semester is Fraser’s first as director of the Shirley Chisholm Project on Brooklyn Women’s Activism, whose archive, housed at the Brooklyn College Library, is the world’s largest for Chisholm-related artifacts. Fraser took over the role from Barbara Winslow and is very excited about the efforts to raise Chisholm’s profile as a central and influential figure in the contemporary political landscape.

“The goal is to connect Chisholm’s legacy to present-day conversations around race, gender, politics and social and economic inequality. Moreover, I hope to place Chisholm and her legacy in context with current issues that impact the Brooklyn communities she supported,” says Fraser. “That is why we have had a wide array of speakers both national and local. So part of her legacy is the political empowerment of marginalized communities, as well as providing a model for political accountability. She advocated for those considered invisible by politicians and the media.”

Fraser is currently writing a book that is a comparative study of Shirley Chisholm and Barbara Jordan, as well as other black women political figures, in the context of examining their political genius, the different strategies they used to affect change, and how they negotiated the intersections of racism, misogyny, and sexism. Fraser also hopes to raise awareness and funds to accomplish things like bolstering the archive, creating paid internships that will allow students to work on Chisholm-related projects and conferences and perhaps even financing scholarships in Chisholm’s name.

To learn more about Shirley Chisholm and the work of the Shirley Chisholm Project on Brooklyn Women’s Activism, please visit the project’s website. See the Brooklyn College calendar for details about the Shirley Chisholm Day event.

Source: Brooklyn College

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