During the 20th century, the history of African American women was one full of many activists and political figures who broke barriers throughout communities and around the country. The power instilled in leaders during this time allowed them to promote many social and cultural aspects regarding feminism, equality, and self-definition. As one of the most influential women of this century, Shirley Chisholm deserves to be honored in our country with a monument in her dedication. Through her political movement, Chisholm was able to campaign and forever change how people think about the feminism movement and women in power. Her political efforts allowed her the honor of being the first African American woman to serve in Congress, as well as run for President. To the United States National Park Service, I am writing to you in an attempt to persuade your organization, and the rest of the United States, that Shirley Chisholm deserves to be honored with another monument in a way that will gain a greater sphere of people and information for our country. With a monument put up in the National Mall in Washington D.C., our country’s modern values promoting diversity, freedom, and equity will be on public display and reflect some of the most important things that Chisholm also emphasized in her campaign methods.
As one of the components Chisholm advocated for in her campaign to run for President, gender and racial equality were at the top of her list. Before starting her campaign, she knew that she had two disadvantages: one being an African American and another being a woman running for office. Knowing these struggles, she was challenged to overcome the negative stereotypes people already held for her, which is how the National Women’s Political Caucus was formed. As a co-founder of this organization, they work to recruit and support women who are seeking nomination for any position in a political office (Michals 4). This applies to all levels of government and this was something that was important for Chisholm to include so that all women felt as though their opinion matters in the bigger picture. According to the Women’s History Website, this organization reflects our modern values on the importance of diversity in leadership positions and the hopes of eliminating racial segregation and discrimination (Steinhauer, Jennifer 10). Racial equality issues were very prevalent during her campaign, giving all the more reason to promote a society with equality for all. As an African American, Chisholm had to fight for her right to even be shown in televised events, and if possible, she was only given a limited amount of time to speak. Although finding little political support from nearly all of her peers, she chose to act opposite the stereotypes and fight for issues that truly mattered not only for herself, but for everyone around her that she had no connection to. This campaign changed how people thought about gender and racial stereotypes, even in today’s political environment, and served as an inspiration for future leaders. With the installation of one of the most influential African American political leaders in the National Mall, as well as being a woman, this monument has the potential to bring future generations of young women to the political sphere and promote change and difference, just as Chisholm did.
Serving as a political leader, many of Shirley Chisholm’s influential values are still relevant in modern politics, even with its constantly changing climate. Not only would the installation of a statue monument in our nation’s capital highlight the effects Chisholm has had on modern day society, but it will emphasize how it has changed and evolved since she ran for office. Police brutality, gun control, and abortion rights are just some of the most opinionated topics today that she strongly argued for in her time. In regards to these topics, a journal published by Julie Gallagher states that Chisholm was not afraid to be front and center with her opinions and strategic about how she discussed these issues (1). She fought for equal rights even when she herself lacked the necessary respect for her own civil rights. The achievements she made in fighting for these topics and gender equality specifically, will have a lasting impact on people of all ages, gender, race, and religion. Representation of African Americans in our political system today largely reflects the efforts made by Shirley Chisholm and the members of the Black Caucus to welcome and appreciate many diverse ideas into an ever changing system. Without the constant effort of leaders like her, not only would we have a group lacking many differences, but there would be leaders fighting for ideas that only benefit themselves, rather than including other socioeconomic classes, religions, or races.
To further promote Chisholm’s stances on everything she fought for, it is important for the audience to know that these issues all applied to her life at some point or another. She established credibility in the election by applying instances in her life to challenge the current system. Pushing past boundaries made against her time and time again, she promoted her ideas through peaceful, yet powerful means. She used many ideas that most candidates use today in a similar form, such as voicing opinions to obtain the attention of a large sphere of people around her. She promoted her values very publicly and gave people a reason to vote for her, instead of having people assume she will be an effective leader. Although losing her first election, the results did not stop her from joining organizations to voice her opinions through a different platform. She stayed close to her personal values and did not let the opinions of others affect the way she led others, which is one of the most important qualities to have for someone running for office.
In Chisholm’s hometown of Brooklyn, New York, there already lies a monument in Prospect Park, however, my proposal is to install another monument in Washington D.C.’s National Mall to get more national attention and promote diversity in one of the most sought after areas for domestic and international tourists. One of the concerns with adding this monument is the issue regarding the use of public funds to put it up. Some of the most important factors to consider in this decision are the current variety of the monuments already displayed, and the effects Chisholm has made on D.C. Many of the current figures displayed only represent accomplishments of white men, examples include Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt memorials, and Abraham Lincoln monuments. I am writing to state the reasons why she deserves an additional statue. When running for office, it is important that you voice opinions and values that pertain to a larger audience than those you already relate to. Chisholm did exactly this and was able to gain a large target audience and please most people she voiced her values to. She became the voice of a very diverse group and found a common ground for people that once found it difficult to interact with each other. Not many people opposed the way she led, reason being that she create policies that would benefit almost everyone around her in a positive way. One of her most significant achievements in her career became her effort in the feminism movement. She was one of the founding members of this movement, which is still in practice today. Knowing this, a monument in her dedication would reflect well on D.C. and more accurately reflect the American values regarding diversity. She supported pro-choice movements and argued that men have no right to undermine women for expressing something they believe in. Gender roles were redefined after she ran for office and women were respected in ways they never were before. In D.C., “The Good Fight” journal states that Chisholm used her unique differences to address the Equal Rights Amendment and the National Organization for Women, which helped leaders there become aware of different prejudices happening in the current political climate (Gallagher 13). According to a scholarly journal, even after her retirement from Congress, she continued her career by writing two autobiographies, maintained a teaching position as a qualified professor at college institutions, and stayed involved in the NAACP in New York (Gallagher 13). She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for all of her outstanding efforts in the political realm and the lasting impression she made for the United States. So in response to putting up another monument, it is important to acknowledge the many current political ideologies and practices that first came about from the ways of Shirley Chisholm and all the organizations and institutions she stood behind.
As we think of ways our political sphere has changed, we must commemorate Chisholm and celebrate her accomplishments by adding a monument in the National Mall. After reading an article, readers learn that through Chisholm, we have learned how important it is to voice your opinion by exercising your right to vote (Steinhauer, Jennifer 5). People that once thought they did not have a voice now do, including the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, women, immigrants, and people of low-income families. A monument will justify and further commemorate all of her actions and the effect they have had on nearly all communities in America. Her political career continued the rest of her life, even after nearly exhausting all efforts in the election. Chisholm had a constant passion for bettering the way everyone around her was living and put the values of others over herself nearly all the time. As a woman that broke away from common stereotypes at the time, Chisholm stated, “I want to be remembered as a woman who dared to be a catalyst of change” (Michals 6). Other politicians need to recognize her strategies and the way that she fought for issues that others above her were constantly ignoring and led a path for others to follow in her shoes. We must focus on putting up monuments that honor the inspirational figures like Shirley Chisholm that have come before us or currently exist, rather than promoting people or groups that have ruined our history and the importance of the American values. As a way to sum up all thoughts about installing this monument, Jillian Steinhauer states, “This monument would allow you to be enveloped in a conversation about interacting and bringing others along” ( 5). Not only would this allow citizens to be more informed on our nation’s history, but it would give an invitation for people to participate in local government and the political sphere in general.
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