Shirley and Proffy: A Preview

I’m working on a series of posts relating to the life and times of Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American congresswoman and the first female African-American to compete in the presidential primaries of a major political party.  

st hill yearbookIn the spring semester of 1946 at Brooklyn College, 21-year-old Shirley St. Hill (later Chisholm) enrolled in a political science seminar class taught by Louis A. Warsoff, consistently voted the most popular professor on campus.  Recently returned from serving in the military, Warsoff was known for his amicable relationship with students and as a tireless speaker who gave lectures to audiences throughout Brooklyn nearly every week. 

Shirley and Professor Warsoff quickly became friends.  In her autobiography Unbought and Unbossed, Chisholm wrote “A blind political science professor, Louis Warsoff, became interested in me, and we had long talks. I called him “Proffy” affectionately.  I loved formal debating and after I starred in a match he told me, “You ought to go into politics.”

warsoff58What topics might Chisholm and Warsoff have discussed?  What similarities did they share as first-generation American and New Yorkers? How could Warsoff’s own book Equality Before The Law have influenced her political philosophy?  What became of Proffy and his mentee when they later attempted to run for office in the contentious arena of Brooklyn’s local politics?  These questions will be answered in “Shirley and Proffy.”