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Western New York pays tribute to Shirley Chisholm

by jmaloni

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Tue, Feb 25th 2014 08:20 pm

First African-American congresswoman featured on recently released U.S. Postal Service stamp

Members of the Western New York community came together Tuesday at Forest Lawn to pay tribute to Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress, who was recently honored by the U.S. Postal Service with the issuance of a limited-edition Black Heritage Forever Stamp.

Born in Brooklyn, Chisholm earned a master's degree from Columbia University and worked as a school teacher before being elected to the New York State Legislature in 1964. In 1968, she won over voters in both primary and general elections with her personal campaign approach, and began her career in Congress in 1969.

As a member of the House of Representatives, Chisholm took her advocacy for education, children and families to a new level. She served on the committees on agriculture and education before becoming the first black woman - and second woman ever - to serve on the House Rules Committee. Chisholm became a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971, and the following year declared her candidacy for president of the United States. Although she didn't earn the necessary votes for the Democratic nomination, she continued to serve the nation as a member of Congress until her retirement in 1982.

"It isn't easy to be first, but Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm wasn't afraid to take on a good challenge," Congressman Brian Higgins said. "Her trailblazing spirit opened doors for today's leaders, and her commitment to education, families and bipartisan cooperation is a lesson that transcends generations."

Chisholm and her husband, Arthur Hardwick Jr., are in Forest Lawn's perpetual care in the Birchwood Mausoleum. Hardwick, a Western New York native, was the first African American from Erie County to serve on the New York State Legislature. Chisholm and Hardwick met while serving in the State Assembly and married in 1977.

Both Chisholm and Hardwick were active in various civic organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, with Hardwick serving on the executive state board.

"We are pleased and humbled to honor Shirley Chisholm today," said Joseph Dispenza, president of Forest Lawn. "The U.S. Postal Service's commemorative stamp is well-deserved national recognition of Congresswoman Chisholm's spirit, bravery and commitment to doing what is right, when you can, regardless of the political or social mores of the time. Her campaign slogan, 'Unbought & Unbossed,' which also serves as her epitaph on her final resting place here at Forest Lawn, sums up her commitment to these ideals and provides a clear direction for all of us as we traverse the many decisions in our lives."

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