Harlem Congressman Charles B. Rangel, who represents the 13th Congressional District of New York that includes Upper Manhattan and parts of the Bronx, released the following statement regarding his colleague Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the House of Representatives, as she is posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“I am immensely pleased that my dear friend and colleague, the late Shirley Chisholm from Brooklyn, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. This is a very significant recognition of the life and legacy of a remarkable individual who made history not only as the first African-American woman elected to Congress in 1969, but also as the first African American to run for President of the United States when she declared her candidacy in 1972. A historic figure in American politics who broke glass ceilings and set examples for future generations of leaders, Shirley Chisolm was a champion for improving the quality of life in inner city communities, and a tireless advocate for protecting the rights of women and children throughout the nation.
I am proud to have served together as New York’s congressional delegation and as founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Throughout her tenure, Shirley promoted the employment of women in Congress and was vocal in her support of civil rights, women’s rights, and the poor. She was also a co-founder of the National Organization of Women (NOW). After she passed away at age 80 on January 1, 2005, I had introduced the Shirley Chisholm Congressional Gold Medal Act to honor my trailblazing friend for her activism, independence, and groundbreaking achievements in politics during and after the civil rights era.
Above all of her firsts, Shirley wanted most to be remembered as a ‘woman who lived in the twentieth century and who dared to be a catalyst for change.’ Shirley used to say: ‘You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.’ Surely enough, Shirley will forever be remembered as a fearless fighter for social justice. As she receives this well-deserved honor, her legacy continues to inspire all of us to work for progress and to believe in the power of change.”