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Shirley Chisholm runs for president, 1972
By the early 1970s, the advances of the civil rights movement had combined with the rise of the feminist movement to create an African–American women's movement. "There can't be liberation for half a race," declared Margaret Sloan, one of the women behind the National Black Feminist Organization, founded in 1973. A year earlier, Representative Shirley Chisholm of New York became a national symbol of both movements as the first major party African–American candidate and the first female candidate for president of the United States. A former educational consultant and a founder of the National Women's Caucus, Chisholm became the first black woman in Congress in 1968, when she was elected to the House from her Brooklyn district. Though she failed to win a primary, Chisholm received more than 150 votes at the Democratic National Convention. She claimed she never expected to win the nomination. It went to George McGovern, who lost to Richard Nixon in the general election. The outspoken Chisholm, who attracted little support among African–American men during her presidential campaign, later told the press: "I've always met more discrimination being a woman than being black. When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men."
The Bakke decision and affirmative action, 1978
Beginning in the 1960s, the term "affirmative action" was used to refer to policies and initiatives aimed at compensating for past discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion or national origin. President John F. Kennedy first used the phrase in 1961, in an executive order calling on the federal government to hire more African Americans. By the mid–'70s, many universities were seeking to increase the presence of minority and female faculty and students on their campuses. The University of California at Davis, for example, designated 16 percent of its medical school's admissions spots for minority applicants. After Allan Bakke, a white California man, applied twice without success, he sued UC Davis, claiming that his grades and test scores were higher than those of minority students who were admitted and accusing UC Davis of "reverse discrimination." In June 1978, in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the use of strict racial quotas was unconstitutional and that Bakke should be admitted; on the other hand, it held that institutions of higher education could rightfully use race as a criterion in admissions decisions in order to ensure diversity. In the wake of the Bakke verdict, affirmative action continued to be a controversial and divisive issue, with a growing opposition movement claiming that the so–called "racial playing field" was now equal and that African Americans no longer needed special consideration to overcome their disadvantages. In subsequent decisions over the next decades, the Court limited the scope of affirmative action programs, while several U.S. states prohibited racially based affirmative action.
Jesse Jackson galvanizes black voters, 1984
As a young man, Jesse Jackson left his studies at the Chicago Theological Seminary to join Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in its crusade for black civil rights in the South; when King was assassinated in Memphis in April 1968, Jackson was at his side. In 1971, Jackson founded PUSH, or People United to Save Humanity (later changed to People United to Serve Humanity), an organization that advocated self–reliance for African Americans and sought to establish racial parity in the business and financial community. He was a leading voice for blacks in America during the early 1980s, urging them to be more politically active and heading up a voter registration drive that led to the election of Harold Washington as the first black mayor of Chicago in 1983. The following year, Jackson ran for the Democratic nomination for president. On the strength of his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, he placed third in the primaries, propelled by a surge of black voter participation. He ran again in 1988 and received 6.6 million votes, or 24 percent of the total primary vote, winning seven states and finishing second behind the eventual Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis. Jackson's continued influence in the Democratic Party in the decades that followed ensured that African–American issues had an important role in the party's platform. Throughout his long career, Jackson has inspired both admiration and criticism for his tireless efforts on behalf of the black community and his outspoken public persona. His son, Jesse L. Jackson Jr., won election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois in 1995.
Oprah Winfrey launches syndicated talk show, 1986
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the success of the long–running sitcom The Cosby Show—featuring popular comedian Bill Cosby as the doctor patriarch of a close–knit middle–class African–American family—helped redefine the image of black characters on mainstream American television. Suddenly, there was no lack of educated, upwardly mobile, family–oriented black characters for TV viewers to look to, both in fiction and in life. In 1980, entrepreneur Robert L. Johnson founded Black Entertainment Television (BET), which he later sold to entertainment giant Viacom for some $3 billion. Perhaps the most striking phenomenon, however, was the rise of Oprah Winfrey. Born in rural Mississippi to a poor unwed teenage mother, Winfrey got her start in television news before taking over a morning talk show in Chicago in 1984. Two years later, she launched her own nationally syndicated talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which would go on to become the highest–rated in TV history. Celebrated for her ability to talk candidly about a wide range of issues, Winfrey spun her talk–show success into a one–woman empire—including acting, film and television production and publishing. She notably promoted the work of black female writers, forming a film company to produce movies based on novels like The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, and Beloved, by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison (she starred in both). One of the most influential individuals in entertainment and the first black female billionaire, Winfrey is also an active philanthropist, giving generously to black South Africans and to the historically black Morehouse College, among other causes.
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