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U.S. Postal Service Honors Shirley Chisholm at Stamp Ceremony

Dorothy Rowley | 1/31/2014, 11 p.m. | Updated on 2/4/2014, 10:01 a.m.
Shirley Chisholm (Courtesy of loc.gov)

The U.S. Postal Service is paying tribute during Black History Month to pioneering Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm with the issuance of a limited-edition stamp.

The tribute was announced during a special ceremony that took place recently at the Brooklyn Borough Hall in Brooklyn, N.Y.

"Shirley Chisholm was a courageous and pioneering woman whose legacy lives on with the issuance of this special stamp," said Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman. "We are proud to honor this great American who shattered barriers of race and gender. Shirley Chisholm fought for the rights of women and the poor as a true champion for justice and equality for all."

Chisholm, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, joins several of the nation’s leading African-American educators, entertainers, civil rights activists, politicians, scholars, athletes, and business pioneers featured in the Black Heritage stamp series. Launched in 1978 with the issuance of the Harriet Tubman stamp, the series includes stamps honoring Sojourner Truth, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. DuBois, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Madam C.J. Walker, Ella Fitzgerald, Marian Anderson, Barbara Jordan, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Mary McLeod Bethune, John Johnson, and Althea Gibson.

Chisholm, the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, was born Anita St. Hill in Brooklyn on Nov. 30, 1924. She spent part of her childhood in Barbados with her maternal grandmother, where she attended strict, traditional, British-style schools. She graduated from Brooklyn College in 1946 and began work in early childhood education.

While pursuing a graduate degree at Columbia University, she met and married Conrad Chisholm.

Chisholm’s political career took off in 1964 with her election to the New York State Assembly. In 1968, she ran for Congress, winning the election the following year to become the first black woman in Congress.

"That I am a national figure because I was the first person in 192 years to be at once a congressman, black and a woman, proves, I think, that our society is not yet either just or free," she later remarked on her historic achievement.

Chisholm scored another historic first in 1972 when she declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president, which made her the first African-American to seek the nomination of a major political party.

She later wrote of her unsuccessful bid that she ran "because somebody had to do it first."

Chisholm served in Congress until 1983, and continued to speak out for the rights of women, people of color and the poor, fighting for legislation to support daycare centers and provide federal aid for education.

She died on Jan. 1, 2005, having already spoken of her legacy.

"I'd like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts," she said. "That's how I'd like to be remembered."

The Shirley Chisolm Black Heritage Forever Stamp is currently on sale at post offices across the country.