When redistricting created a new congressional seat in Shirley Chisholm’s Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1960s, she decided to run for it. The spirited state legislator campaigned by driving around the district proclaiming, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is fighting Shirley Chisholm coming through.” Chisholm won the 1968 election, making her the first Black congresswoman in U.S. history, but she didn’t stop there. Four years later, she made history yet again as the first woman to run for president as a Democrat, and the first Black woman to run for president at all.
Her pioneering journey to the 1972 Democratic National Convention will soon be the subject of a new film, aptly titled The Fighting Shirley Chisholm. Though the project was first announced in November 2018, with Viola Davis set to star as the eponymous politician, Variety reported this week that a different actor has now been cast as Chisholm: Danai Gurira, who is best known for her roles as Michonne in The Walking Dead and Okoye in 2018’s Black Panther (and other Marvel movies). Uzo Aduba also recently portrayed Chisholm in FX’s miniseries Mrs. America, which earned her an Emmy Award earlier this year.
Since The Fighting Shirley Chisholm will mainly cover Chisholm’s 1972 presidential campaign—rather than her life in general—it’s not considered a biopic. That said, the challenges she faced on the trail are more than enough to fill a feature-length film; she weathered assassination attempts, won a lawsuit to participate in televised debates, and faced criticism on all sides from people who simply didn’t agree with the way she conducted her campaign. In many ways, the story of Chisholm’s 1972 presidential bid is a microcosm of what her fellow Black politicians, female politicians, and Black female politicians experienced at the time.
“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 am equally proud of that. I am the candidate of the people, and my presence before you now symbolizes a new era in American political history,” Chisholm said when announcing her plans to run for president.
The upcoming film—which doesn’t yet have a release date—will be produced by Stephanie Allain’s Homegrown Pictures, directed by Cherien Dabis, and written by Adam Countee.