Legacy of the Late Shirley Chisholm Comes to Life in New Netflix Movie

by Xara Aziz
Left: Netflix/Right: Archives.gov

The late Shirley Chisholm, the outspoken, dynamic and esteemed member of Congress who shaped the way for many women of color who would come after her, is getting the flowers she deserves after the release of a riveting new movie entitled “Shirley.”

In this movie, Regina King delivers a compelling portrayal of the pioneering U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. The film, while earnest, lacks the energy one might expect from a woman whose impact still resonates today.

In 1968, Chisholm broke barriers as the first African American woman to serve as a U.S. representative for New York’s 12th District. “Shirley” depicts her as the lone Black woman amidst a sea of White men in a memorable scene on the Capitol steps.

Four years later, Chisholm made history again by becoming the first African American woman to run for president. The film, directed by John Ridley, delves into her groundbreaking campaign, highlighting the challenges she faced against political heavyweights like Richard M. Nixon and George McGovern.

Chisholm’s campaign slogan, “Unbought and Unbossed,” encapsulated her fearless spirit, yet she struggled against underfunding and underestimation from both political rivals and allies alike. Despite her significance, the film fails to fully capture the complexities of her journey.

While “Shirley” attempts to honor Chisholm’s legacy, it falls short, feeling more like a bland history lesson than a tribute to one of America’s most impactful figures. Though it features some noteworthy performances, including Christina Jackson as Chisholm’s protégé Barbara Lee, the film lacks the emotional resonance needed to truly honor Chisholm’s legacy as a transformative politician.

The movie is available on Netflix. Watch now.

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