CHISHOLM 72 Unbought & Unbossed is the first historical documentary on Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and her campaign to become the Democratic Partys presidential nominee in 1972. Following Chisholm from the announcement of her candidacy in January to the Democratic National Convention in Miami, Florida in July, the story is like her- fabulous, fierce, and fundamentally right on.
Chisholms fight is for inclusion, as she writes in her book The Good Fight (1973), and encompasses all Americans who agree that the institutions of this country belong to all of the people who inhabit it. Shunned by the political establishment, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm asks people of color, feminists and young voters for their support to reshape our society and take control of our destiny as we go down the Chisholm Trail in 1972. To the surprise of many, voters responded.
Shirley Chisholm, a Democrat from New York, was the first black woman elected to the United States Congress (in 1969), and then--long before the likes of Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton--the first African American of either gender to seek a major party's presidential nomination, an effort recounted in Unbought & Unbossed
. Chisholm, who died in January 2005 (the 76-minute documentary was produced the previous year), undoubtedly knew that her chances of winning her party's 1972 nomination, let alone the general election, were nil; she ran, she said, to "shake up the system." But while her quest may have been hopeless (as it turned out, so was that of George McGovern, the eventual nominee, who lost to incumbent Richard Nixon in a landslide of historic proportions), it was hardly quixotic. Well-educated, articulate, and tough, Chisholm faced plenty of opposition, including from women and other black politicians; she was even physically attacked on the "Chisholm Trail," as she called her campaign ('72 was also the year that Alabama governor George Wallace, another would-be Democratic nominee, was shot and paralyzed). But she stayed the course all the way up to the Democratic convention in Miami, when she finally released her delegates to McGovern, and continued serving in the House of Representatives until 1983. Whether or not Shirley Chisholm met her goal of becoming "a catalyst for change," as she planned, is arguable. But that she had guts and the strength of her convictions is beyond debate. --Sam Graham