Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed

In 1972, black congresswoman Shirley Chisholm ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination, launching a groundbreaking campaign that united an unlikely coalition of supporters from every walk of life.

Premiere Date
February 7, 2005
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2006 Peabody Awards-George Foster Peabody Award
  • Director

    Shola Lynch

    Chisholm ’72 — Unbought & Unbossed was Shola Lynch’s directorial debut. Previously, she worked with Ken Burns’ Florentine Films on Frank Lloyd Wright and JAZZ, HBO Sports on Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, and ROJA Productions on EveryOther, a short in the Matters of Race series. Lynch’s most important Show more filmmaking skill has come from competing 15 years as a track athlete — perseverance in pursuit of a goal. Show less


    Phil Bertelsen

    Phil Bertelsen is an Emmy and two-time Peabody award-winning filmmaker based in New York City. He was Series Producer and Director of the 6-part documentary series Who Killed Malcolm X (Netflix). As a result of the investigative work and new evidence provided in the series, the Manhattan DA’s office is reviewing the decades old assassination case and Show more reconsidering the conviction one of the assassins. Prior to that he produced and directed a documentary special for NBC News called Hope and Fury: MLK, the Media and the Movement. Bertelsen is currently completing an independent feature documentary about a civil rights era photographer who was revealed to be an FBI informant. Bertelsen also directed a feature-length documentary special called Through The Fire: The Presidency of Barack Obama with Executive Producer Stanley Nelson and Firelight Media. His film School of the Future, made for the PBS science series NOVA, examines how science and technology are transforming the way students learn and teachers teach. He produced and directed multiple episodes of the Columbia-DuPont Award winning documentary series The African Americans--Many Rivers To Cross, hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and several episodes of Finding Your Roots. The PBS series, now in its sixth season, traces the genealogy of celebrated Americans. Previous work includes the award-winning Chisholm ’72; the feature documentary, Beyond The Steps about Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. His work has screened and broadcast internationally on PBS, MTV the Sundance Channel, Arte and Canal Plus. He has received support from the Ford Foundation; ITVS; National Black Programming Consortium and Corporation for Public Broadcasting, among others. He has also taught on the adjunct faculty at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism; The City College of New York, and at Temple University in Philadelphia. Prior to coming to New York, Phil helped launch public television station WYBE-TV in Philadelphia. He holds an M.F.A. in Film from New York University where he was a Spike Lee Fellow, and a B.A. in Political Science and Journalism from Rutgers University in his native New Jersey. Show less

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    The Film

    1972 was an extraordinary year. Richard Nixon was president, running for his second, ill-fated term. The voting age had just changed from 21 to 18, and millions of new voters were expected at the polls. The Vietnam War was in full swing, as were anti-war protests, a burgeoning women’s movement, and the rise of the Black Panther Party. Into the center of this maelstrom — shocking the conventional political wisdom — stepped Shirley Chisholm, a determined, rather prim and unapologetically liberal black woman with a powerful message: Exercise the full measure of your citizenship and vote.

    Announcing her candidacy for president on the evening news, Walter Cronkite quipped, “A new hat — rather a bonnet — was tossed into the presidential race today.” As revealed in Chisholm ’72 — Unbought & Unbossed, a feature documentary having its world broadcast premiere on public television’s POV series, this first-ever run by a woman and person of color for presidential nomination was no laughing matter. Nor was it a polite exercise in symbolic electioneering. The New York Democratic congresswoman’s bid engendered strong, and sometimes bigoted opposition, setting off currents that affect American politics and social perceptions to this day. Shirley Chisholm died at the age of 80 on January 1, 2005, at her home in Florida.

    Chisholm ’72 recaptures the times and spirit of a watershed event in American politics, when a black woman dared to take an equal place on the presidential dais.

    “Our goal was to make a documentary as passionate and powerful as Chisholm herself,” says director and co-producer Shola Lynch. “Her story is an important reminder of the power of a dedicated individual to make a difference.” It also reminds us that the country belongs to each of us only if we dare to claim our place in it.