Speak Up, Speak Out! – MG Book Recommendation

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Title: Speak up, Speak Out! The extraordinary life of “Fighting Shirley Chisholm”

Author: Tonya Bolden

Foreward by: Stacey Abrams

Publisher: National Geographic Partners, 2022

Ages: 8-12

Format/Genre: biography

Themes: African American legislators, presidential candidate, civil rights, women’s rights, activism, Shirley Chisolm


If Harriet Tubman, stout-hearted, agressive conductor of the pre civil war Underground Railroad, could be reincarnated, her spirit would undoubtedly find comfortable lodgings in Shirley St. Hill Chisholm…

Every identity of the former finds fresh reflection in the latter–short stature, dark skin, sparkling eyes, raw courage, combativeness, and a fierce tenacity for overcoming obstacles.

— New York Lawmaker and author George R. Metcalf, 1971


A biography of the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first Black woman to run for president with a major political party: Shirley Chisholm. 
Before there was Barack Obama, before there was Kamala Harris, there was Fighting Shirley Chisholm. A daughter of Barbadian immigrants, Chisholm developed her political chops in Brooklyn in the 1950s and went on to become the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. This “pepper pot,” as she was known, was not afraid to speak up for what she thought was right. While fighting for a better life for her constituents in New York’s 12th Congressional District, Chisholm routinely fought against sexism and racism in her own life and defied the norms of the time. As the first Black woman in the House and the first Black woman to seek the presidential nomination from a major political party, Shirley Chisholm laid the groundwork for those who would come after her. (Publisher)

Why I like this book:

Thoroughly researched, this biography traces Chisholm’s journey from her simple beginnings in a small apartment in Brooklyn where she read books with her sisters to Brooklyn College where she got her first taste of politics. Chisholm campaign trail victories are inspirational, as were the battles she fought for fair wages, equal rights, and an end to the Vietnam War. Though her presidential bid in 1972, unsurprisingly didn’t end in victory, Shirley Chisholm shows young readers that you can change a country when you speak up and speak out.

As a foreigner, my introduction to Chisolm came recently though the Hulu series, Mrs America. While not wholly historically accurate, I found the the series fascinating, and was especially inspired by Ms Chisolm, so I enjoyed reading this factual and inspirational biographical work. Chisolm’s integrity, dignity and passion permeate these pages, and I don’t think you can read this story without being challenged to speak up and speak out!


Great text to use in class for black history month, civil rights projects, and any unit on the power of activism.

I would match this with the book I am reviewing next week for MCBD2022. Stay tuned!

This entry was posted in Biography, Black history Month, Book recommendation, children's books, Children's literature, middle grade and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Speak Up, Speak Out! – MG Book Recommendation

  1. I’ve always known and watched Shirley Chisolm, but am embarrassed that I haven’t read a book about her. This biography sounds perfect. Thanks for reminding me. Will check my library.

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