NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Sen. Kamala Harris has said she often draws her words and inspiration from a Brooklyn political powerhouse — the great Shirley Chisholm, who was the first Black woman from a major political party to run for president.
In her words and her campaign, Harris consistently pays tribute to Congresswoman Chisholm.
“We stand on the shoulders of Shirley Chisholm and Shirley Chisholm stood proud,” Harris said.
Dr. Zingha Fraser heads the Shirley Chisholm Project at Chisholm’s alma mater, Brooklyn College.
“Chisholm would say that she is the people’s candidate,” Fraser told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner. “She’s an advocate for the poor. She’s an advocate against racism.”
Chisholm, the child of Caribbean immigrants, grew up at a home on Prospect Avenue in Crown Heights.
Chisholm commuted from Brooklyn to Columbia University to earn her master’s degree from the Teachers College.
But she went from the classroom to Congress, campaigning as someone who was unbought and unbossed.
In 1968, Chisholm became the first African-American female member of Congress, representing the 12th District, which was mostly Bedford-Stuyvesant.
She and Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel were part of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“I heard more about Brooklyn than I wanted to know,” Rangel said. “She was a forceful orator, Shirley Chisholm’s voice was heard more, moreso than most members of Congress.”
In 1972, she announced, “I stand before you today as a candidate for the presidency of the United States of America.”
She paid for most of her own campaign and broke the glass ceiling making it to the Democratic convention.
Chisholm didn’t receive enough delegates, but she continued to serve, says Barbara Winslow, who authored a book on Chisholm.
“Chisholm’s very famous quote, ‘If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring your own folding chair,'” Winslow said.
RELATED STORY: NYC To Honor Shirley Chisholm With Monument In Prospect Park
Soon a statue will go up in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, reprsenting her Caribbean heritage and the multi-ethnic communities she served.
Experts say just by believing in herself, she created the space for others, like Harris, to have the confidence to break barriers, too.
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