Kamala Harris’ announcement on “Good Morning America” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a stark reminder of what happened 47 years ago this week in a race for the presidency.
Harris is standing on the shoulders of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to run for president, and
10 other Black women.
Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.), said of her Democratic ticket in 1972: “I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud.”
“I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman, and I’m equally proud of that. I am not the candidate or any political bosses or fat cats or special interests. . . . I am the candidate of the people of America.”
Harris’ campaign spokesperson, Kirsten Allen, told the Guardian they purposely chose to honor Chisholm’s legacy.
“Shirley Chisholm’s activism, advocacy and willingness to persistently remind the nation of the work to be done on behalf of it’s people is an enduring legacy that lives on in the Senator and to honor that legacy in her own campaign for President was a no-brainer,” she said.
She also chose to honor her with the campaigns color scheme of red and yellow:
Interesting Tidbit: Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman ever to run for president, launched her campaign 47 years ago.
#KamalaHarris chose yellow and red for her campaign logo in a nod to Chisholm’s bid for president with its red and yellow campaign buttons. pic.twitter.com/gf53gIl7DE
Trevor Joseph Newton (@TrevJoseph)
January 21, 2019
In a tweet, the Black White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor, often a target of Trump’s, also weighed in:
Senator Kamala Harris’ campaign will certainly be about a bunch of issues. But her announcing her candidacy on MLK Day and then having a press conference at Howard University illustrates her putting race and her blackness at the center of her bid. That’s an interesting choice.
Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) January 21, 2019
Chisholm was also known for her quote, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
And in the era of #MeToo, where Harris spoke in support of Christine Blasey Ford and accused then Judge Brett Kavanaugh of having a crystal clear memory when it was convenient for him, and where she promises to give a voice to the voiceless in her campaign, it seems as though she’s giving a nod to making room for herself at the table.
“Like Shirley, I believe that to restore confidence and trust in our institutions and leaders, we need to speak truth,” Harris wrote of Chisholm in a February 2018
essay in Essence.
“We need to acknowledge that racism is real in this country. Anti-Semitism is real in this country. Sexism, sexual assault, and workplace harassment are real in this country. We need to speak the truth that America was founded by immigrants, and we should not be vilifying people who come here in search of greater opportunity for themselves and their children.”
Both Harris and Chisholm are daughters of immigrants.
Chisholm was elected to the New York State Assembly, becoming only the second African American woman elected to the state legislature. She was also the first Black woman elected to Congress.
“That I am a national figure because I was the first person in 192 years to be at once a congressman, Black and a woman proves, I think, that our society is not yet either just or free,” she
would later state.
In 2016, Harris became the second Black woman and first south Asian woman elected to the Senate.
Harris, who unveiled a campaign slogan “Kamala Harris For The People,” is setting up
campaign headquarters in Baltimore, with another office in Oakland.