Movie cover art with Shirley Chisholm's face

Reviewed by Craig J. Clark, Senior Materials Handler

Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed directed by Shola Lynch is available to stream on Kanopy.


In light of how swiftly the recent election cycle knocked out every woman and/or person of color campaigning to be the Democratic nominee for president, it’s instructive to watch this 2004 documentary about the first Black woman to make a serious run at the office. That would be Shirley Chisholm, who served New York in the House of Representatives from 1969 to 1983 and threw her hat into the ring in 1972, making her one of 13 Democrats vying for the privilege of losing to Richard Nixon. Her platform: universal healthcare, full employment, decent housing, racial equality, equal rights for women, and an end to the Vietnam War. That most of these policies are still considered radical today is sobering, as is seeing how Chisholm and her campaign are routinely marginalized by the media. In the face of all that adversity, though – including pushback from the Democratic establishment, which was eager to get everybody to rally around one of their candidates, and the Black Caucus, which declined to throw their weight behind her – she kept her grassroots campaign going right up to the convention, just to prove she could go the distance. In the closing moments of the film, Chisholm says she doesn’t want to be remembered because she was the first Black woman in Congress or the first one to run for president. “I want to be remembered as a woman who fought for change in the 20th century,” she says. Mission accomplished, ma’am.

In addition to the film, Chisholm is the subject of two recent biographies: 2014’s Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change by Barbara Winslow, which is aimed at adults, and Shirley Chisholm by Laurie Calkhoven, a brand new “Ready-to-Read” book for juveniles. Her campaign is also covered in the 2016 book The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency by Ellen Fitzpatrick.

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship.