Of all New York’s monuments and statues, the best known is probably the Statue of Liberty, the iconic green woman serving as a beacon of America’s best self.
But there are few statues throughout the city depicting real-life iconic women. And despite the many ways black women have shaped American cultural and civic life, in New York—as with many other cities throughout the country—there are strikingly few representations of them in public spaces.
Which is why it matters that a statue of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to serve in Congress, is finally coming to New York City in 2020.
As the New York Times reports, today marks Chisholm’s birthday and the 50th anniversary of her historic election to Congress, representing Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The statue will be placed outside the Parkside entrance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, according to the paper.
“We set out to correct a glaring inequity in our public spaces,” New York first lady Chirlane McCray told the Times in a Thursday interview.
It’s virtually impossible to overstate Chisholm’s significance. In 1972, she became the first black woman—the first woman, period—to seek the presidential nomination of a major political party. Her iconic campaign slogan, “unbought and unbossed,” remains a black feminist mantra and inspired a generation of women to seek public office.
In one particularly poignant tribute, Cincinnati, Ohio, Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard brought a chair to her swearing-in ceremony last year, a tribute to Chisholm’s famous line, “if they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Chisholm will also be the subject of a new biopic, The Fighting Shirley Chisholm, with Viola Davis set to star.
What we’re saying is, this tribute is welcome—and overdue. And apparently, we’re not the only ones who think so.
According to the Times, Chisholm was selected after the city solicited nominations to honor women’s contributions. This particular statue is also part of She Built NYC, a citywide effort to expand women’s representation in public art and monuments. Chisholm’s statue will be their first.