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Project to build more women statues in NYC to honor first black congresswoman

By
Danielle Haynes
Former congresswoman Shirley Chisholm addresses the kickoff of the Smithsonian Institution Black History Month at the Museum of American History on February 2, 1987, in Washington. Chisholm will be honored with a statue near Brooklyn's Prospect Park. File Photo by Vince Mannino/UPI
Former congresswoman Shirley Chisholm addresses the kickoff of the Smithsonian Institution Black History Month at the Museum of American History on February 2, 1987, in Washington. Chisholm will be honored with a statue near Brooklyn's Prospect Park. File Photo by Vince Mannino/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 30 (UPI) -- New York City officials announced Friday that Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to serve in the U.S. House, will get a statue in Brooklyn as part of an effort to increase the number of women immortalized in stone throughout the city.

Chisholm's statue will be the first project of She Built NYC, a movement that seeks to honor women in at least 50 percent of New York City's public monuments. A Gothamist investigation in 2009 found that of the estimated 150 historical statues in the city, five are of women.

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New York City first lady Chirlane McCray and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen made the announcement Friday, on the anniversary of Chisholm's birth, at the future site of the statue -- at the Parkside entrance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

"Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm's legacy of leadership and activism has paved the way for thousands of women to seek public office," McCray said. "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."

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Women.nyc, which launched the She Built NYC project, said it will announce the artist of Chisholm's sculpture in early 2019.

Chisholm, who died in 2005 at age 80, also was the first black woman of a major political office to run for president of the United States. For 14 years she represented New York's 12th congressional district, one of the poorest sections of the city including the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick districts of Brooklyn.

A Democrat, she became interested in politics after working on welfare projects in her native Brooklyn. In her first campaign for political office, in the New York state Legislature, she won a seat in the assembly and was returned twice. That led her to the national scene and in January 1969 she began her first term in Congress. She was re-elected six times.

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In 1972 Chisholm entered several Democratic presidential primaries and received 151 delegate votes for the nomination.

She decided not to seek re-election to Congress in 1982, saying the "tree of hope planted by Franklin Roosevelt" was "withering from icy winds of callousness, militarism and despair."

Former President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Chisholm the Medal of Freedom in 2015.

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"Shirley Chisholm's example transcends her life. And when asked how she'd like to be remembered, she had an answer, ' I'd like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts.' And I'm proud to say it: Shirley Chisholm had guts," Obama said at the time.

Earlier this month, Amazon Studios announced it is producing a movie about Chisholm's life called The Fighting Shirley Chisholm. The film will star Viola Davis.

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