Shirley Chisholm’s Historic Run for President

Robert Gottlieb was standing by the luggage carousel waiting for his baggage to arrive after he landed in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1972 when was met with shock. There was no doubt those were his boxes, but someone had written all over one of them, “Go home n*****.”

It was clear what was inside the boxes: brochures and bumper stickers for Shirley Chisholm’s presidential campaign, for which he had been hired as the student coordinator. “That’s how the campaign began,” Gottlieb told Smithsonian Magazine in 2016.

That anonymous sign of hatred, even degrees removed from Chisholm herself, is proof of the kinds of language and insults that were being hurled at the candidate — yet she let none of it shake her at all. As the first major-party Black American to run for president, she forged ahead fearlessly, running to represent all the people of the country equally, no matter how they viewed her, as she announced at Brooklyn’s Concord Baptist Church on January 25, 1972, when she declared her candidacy.

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