Shirley Chisholm: Political Pioneer With Palm Coast Ties

In February our nation celebrates Presidents’ Day and Black History month. Shirley Chisholm deserves recognition for her contributions to both aspects of American History. Before retiring to Palm Coast in 1991 Ms. Chisholm established a remarkable career in politics, breaking several glass ceilings.
In an upset victory over James Farmer in 1968 she became the first black woman to be elected to the United States Congress representing New York’s 12th Congressional district. Statements from a sound truck announcing “Ladies and gentlemen, this is fighting Shirley Chisholm coming through” introduced her to voters. She described herself as “unbossed and unbought” which appealed to many. Despite resistance based on her sex she succeeded in winning the election and became the only woman in the first-year class that year. She served for seven terms and retired from politics in 1983.
Her most notable achievement came in 1972 when she became the first black candidate for a major-party nomination for President of the United States. She was also the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination. In her presidential announcement Chisholm described herself as a representative of all people. A campaign poster from the era states “Bring Us Together.”
She described herself by saying “I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and equally proud of that. I am the candidate of the people and my presence before you symbolizes a new era in American political history.”
Initially barred from televised debates, in June of that year Chisholm became the first woman to appear in a United States presidential debate. Despite these achievements she struggled to be regarded as a serious candidate instead of a symbolic political figure. Her campaign was underfunded and the Democratic political establishment ignored her. In spite of hopeless odds she ran for office to demonstrate her sheer will “and refusal to accept the status quo.” George
McGovern eventually won the nomination.
In February 1982 Chisholm announced that she was looking forward to a more private life.
Dissatisfied with the course of liberal politics in the wake of the Reagan Revolution Chisholm decided to leave Congress. She reportedly lamented the tactics of the Christian right which she said made potent use of the media and the symbols of family, morality and the national flag to quiet dissatisfaction in the people. Ultimately she said she had never intended to spend her whole career in politics and looked forward to returning to teaching.
In 1991 Chisholm moved to Palm Coast and resided in the Pine Lakes area. She became involved with the community, delivering speeches and encouraging everyone to exercise their right to vote. She attended the First AME Church on Old Kings Road North. At her funeral in 2005 Reverend G. Glover stated that Chisholm brought about change because “she showed up, she stood up and she spoke up.” In 2015 she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Chisholm’s fighting spirit inspired many over the years, including members of the Democratic Women’s Club of Flagler County. They appealed to the City of Palm Coast to help recognize her legacy as a Trailblazer by having a trail in her former neighborhood named in her honor. On November 30, 2022 Palm Coast paid tribute to Shirley Chisholm with a Proclamation designating the 3-mile Pine Lakes path the “Shirley Chisholm Trail” and unveiled a stone marker.
On November 30, 2023 the City unveiled seven trail markers spaced at 1/2 mile intervals which include famous quotations by Chisholm. The Democratic Women’s Club is proud to have played a part in raising awareness about her impactful slogans and accomplishments. May they remind others that “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.”