Chisholm '72—Unbought & Unbossed

Director: Shola Lynch

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


In 1972, when Shirley Chisholm, a brilliant black congresswoman from Brooklyn, boldly bid for the presidency, women had barely made it out of the kitchen, and the Civil Rights Act was still new. But here was eloquent, composed, audacious Shirley Chisholm—not only the first black woman in Congress, but the first woman to run for the nation's highest office—demanding that the body politic actually represent all the American people.

With its blaxploitation flare and seventies visual sensibility, Chisholm '72 is a sassy chronicle of this persuasive humanist's campaign trail adventures. She ran, as she put it, not as a black or a woman but as a candidate of the people. The press ridiculed or ignored her, and progressive leaders endorsed more "electable" candidates. Yet despite these setbacks, Chisholm built strong grassroots support, resiliently took her cadre of delegates all the way to the Democratic Convention, and now, at almost 80, lived to tell about it.

Shola Lynch's powerful and inspiring documentary celebrates a remarkable woman, but also raises stinging questions—more potent in this election year—about the social implications of her campaign. If the country wasn't ready for Chisholm 30 years ago, under what conditions would a black or a woman be considered electable today? In other words, has anything changed?

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details


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