Review of Shirley Chisholm Dared: The Story of the First Black Woman in Congress

Shirley Chisholm Dared: The Story of the First Black Woman in Congress
by Alicia D. Williams; illus. by April Harrison
Primary    Schwartz/Random    48 pp.   g
6/21    978-0-593-12368-3    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-12369-0    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-12370-6    $10.99

Williams (Genesis Begins Again, rev. 1/19; Jump at the Sun, rev. 3/21) and Harrison (What Is Given from the Heart, rev. 1/19; Nana Akua Goes to School, rev. 5/20) present a lively and appealing picture-book biography of our first Black Congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm (1924–2005). The story focuses on her childhood propensity to ask questions, which evolved into a successful political career anchored by advocacy for the rights of poor and underrepresented people. The daughter of West Indian immigrant parents, Chisholm spent her youth in Brooklyn with her parents and in Barbados with her grandmother and cousins. Her schooling was important to her father, who inquired daily about what she had learned and told her to “study and make something of yourself.” After college, where she joined a political science society, she worked in early childhood education. In her community, she attended meetings and asked questions related to the welfare of citizens, pushing for money for better schools, regular sanitation service, and better police protection. Dissatisfied with politicians’ unkept promises, she formed a Democratic women’s club that worked to address community issues and organize voter registration drives. After winning a seat in the New York Assembly, she introduced bills to help college students and domestic workers and to fund daycare centers. Three years later, Chisholm was elected to Congress, where she served for fifteen years. Harrison’s expressive and engaging folk art–style illustrations, rendered in acrylic and mixed-media collage, are a worthy complement to Williams’s admiring tone and spirited narrative, which makes the subject both relatable and inspiring for readers. An author’s note offers additional information about Chisholm’s life, including her 1972 presidential run. Pair with Chambers’s Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb! and Russell-Brown and Velasquez’s She Was the First! (rev. 11/20).

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Pauletta Brown Bracy
Pauletta Brown Bracy is professor of library science at North Carolina Central University. She is chair of the 2015-2017 Coretta Scott King Book Awards committee and serves on the 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards committee.

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