The late U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-Brooklyn), 1924-2005, the political trailblazer who was both the first black Congresswoman and the first woman to seek the Democratic presidential nomination, will have a monument to her memory erected at the Parkside entrance to Prospect Park.
This is the first monument commissioned as part of She Built NYC, an initiative to construct public monuments honoring the New York City women who have changed history which kicked off with an open call for nominations in June 2018.
The announcement that Chisholm was selected as the first She Built NYC honoree comes on the 94th anniversary of her birthday and the 50th anniversary of her election to the House of Representatives.
“Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s legacy of leadership and activism has paved the way for thousands of women to seek public office,” said NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray. “She is exactly the kind of New York woman whose contributions should be honored with representation in our public spaces, and that is now being realized with She Built NYC.”
At women.nyc, members of the public submitted nearly 2,000 nominations of women, groups of women, and events in women’s history they believed should be permanently memorialized through She Built NYC. Ninety-eight percent of respondents said they would like to see a woman honored who was committed to social reform or justice. The most frequently used word in the submissions was “first,” followed by “leader” and then “advocate.”
An advisory panel with individuals representing a broad range of expertise and backgrounds helped refine the public submissions list and provided recommendations to the City. The selected artist who will design Rep. Chisholm’s monument in early will be announced 2019. The monument will be installed by the end of 2020.
Brooklyn’s elected were quick to heap praise on the announcement.
“Shirley Chisholm was an iconic figure, a visionary and a dedicated public servant. Her labor and contributions to Brooklyn, the United States Congress, and the Nation continue to bear fruit today. Chisholm paved the way for many other women- myself included — to run, win and serve in elected office,” said U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay). “This statue will serve as a monument to an extraordinary woman and political powerhouse who helped those who were vulnerable and underrepresented. I can think of no other leader more deserving of a permanent home in Prospect Park.”
“For too long, we have not done enough to honor the significant contributions of women in our city and our nation,” said U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Western Brooklyn, Manhattan). “Today’s announcement of a permanent statue honoring the life of Shirley Chisholm, a trailblazer who was the first black woman elected to Congress, is an important first step in correcting that omission.”
“The life and legacy of Shirley Chisholm is more relevant than ever. Unbossed and unbought, Ms. Chisholm was the people’s candidate who fought valiantly against gender discrimination and unfair pay for domestic workers. In many ways her memory has encouraged young people throughout the country to run for office,” said U.S. Rep.-elect Max Rose (D-Southern Brooklyn, State Island).
“I commend She Built NYC for their successful efforts in achieving this honor for a dynamic trailblazer who paved the way for women to follow in this great city,” Senator Roxanne J. Persaud (D-Canarsie, Brownsville, East New York, Mill Basin) said. “Shirley Anita Chisholm was truly an inspiration for women, one worthy of a monument and much more.”
“Shirley Chisholm was a trailblazer — the first black woman elected to Congress, a feminist icon, and the true pride of Brooklyn. A champion for education and children, and fundamental to expanding the food stamp program, she made critical contributions to protect hard-working people and families in her Brooklyn district and in our country. She taught women everywhere to pull up their folding chairs and make a seat at the table. I am thrilled that there will be a monument in Prospect Park immortalizing her legacy.” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon (D-Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill).
“There are few New Yorkers more deserving of a monument than the great Shirley Chisholm, and there is no place better to erect it than the entrance to Prospect Park, right in the heart of the congressional district she represented and championed. This honor is overdue, as are similar honors for so many of our city’s outstanding women, people of color, immigrants, and members of our LGBTQ+ community,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “I hope the celebration surrounding this great announcement inspires the commissioning of plenty more monuments that reflect our rich diversity and bring us closer together.”
As the first black Congresswoman in U.S. history, Chisholm was a both leader and advocate for residents of New York’s 12th Congressional District and the country at large. In a sordid tale of Brooklyn past, the federal government had to come into Brooklyn and create a federal voting rights district for Chisholm’s election because it was found that Kings County was one of the few counties in the north that continually gerrymandered communities of color so black could not get elected.
Chisholm became the first black major-party candidate to run for President of the United States in the 1972 U.S. presidential election. She was also the first woman to ever run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Shirley Chisholm was born Shirley Anita St. Hill on November 30, 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. She was the oldest of four daughters of Charles St. Hill, a factory laborer from Guyana, and Ruby Seale St. Hill, a seamstress from Barbados. Following her graduation from Brooklyn’s Girls High School, now known as Boys and Girls High School, she studied sociology at Brooklyn College and earned her B.A. in 1946. She also earned an M.A. in early childhood education from Columbia University.