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Shirley (Film)


Shirley Chisolm (1924-2005) was an American politician who – in 1968 – became the 1st Black woman elected to the US Congress.

In 1972, Shirley Chisolm became the first Black candidate to run for President and this is the subject of the 2024 film, Shirley, currently showing on Netflix.

Because the film focuses on Chisholm’s 1972 campaign for the presidency, it does not tell the story of her childhood in kinship care.

Shirley Anita St Hill Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York to recent migrants from Barbados, Charles Christopher St Hill (orphaned at age fourteen) and Ruby Seale. Shirley was the oldest of their four daughters.
Charles had a low-paying job and Ruby, a skilled seamstress, was compelled to work from home taking in sewing. Ruby found it difficult to manage three daughters and work. Therefore, in November 1929, Shirley and two of her sisters (the youngest was born after this) were taken by Ruby back to Barbados to live with their maternal grandmother.

Shirley’s mum stay in Barbados for 6 months, then returned to Brooklyn. She didn’t see her children again for 6 years.

In Barbados, it wasn’t Granny Seale who cared for the children as she, too, worked long hours. Instead, it was Shirley’s mum’s 19 year old sister who took care of them.

The St Hill girls arrived back in the US in 1934 and Shirley graduated from high school in 1942. She then went on to university and worked as a teacher after graduating in 1946.

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