BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — The nation’s first black congresswoman and Bedford-Stuyvesant icon Shirley Chisholm was posthumously honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday.
The Brooklyn native made history in 1968 when she became the first African American woman elected to Congress, and later ran for president in 1972.
Chisholm served for seven terms and was part of the House Agricultural Committee. She played a role in the creation of the WIC program and went on to become a founding member of the Congressional black caucus. She died in 2005.
“There are people in our country’s history who don’t look left or right, they just look straight ahead. Shirley Chisholm was one of those people,” President Barack Obama said at Tuesday's White House ceremony.
“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.’”
Chisholm was among 16 who received the highest civilian award, including baseball great Yogi Berra who also was posthumously honored, composer Stephen Sondheim, and NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson.
Several local elected officials said Chisholm served as an inspiration to them.
“Shirley Chisholm has been a lifelong role model of mine. As the first black woman in Congress, she shattered ceilings and paved the way for women like to me to run for office,” Public Advocate Letitia James said in a statement.
“Shirley was a deeply compassionate woman and rare kind of politician who cared about doing what was right — not what was politically expedient.”