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Kamala Harris' campaign launch pays tribute to Shirley Chisholm's 1972 run

Harris on how she'll reach out to voters

History was made Monday when Sen. Kamala Harris, just the second African American woman to serve in the Senate, announced her plans to seek the Democratic nomination for president. The California Democrat chose Martin Luther King Jr. Day to launch her candidacy, and did so by evoking parallels with the groundbreaking 1972 presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress.

Chisholm announced her presidential campaign Jan. 25, 1972, nearly 47 years to the day before Harris jumped into the 2020 race. Both Harris and Chisholm were daughters of immigrants. Chisholm was both the first woman and the first African American to seek the nomination of a major party — Harris is already the fourth woman to launch a presidential campaign just this year.

Harris paid homage to Chisholm's historic campaign by using a similar color scheme and typography in her logo and promotional materials. The red-and-yellow style was apparent in a video released by the Harris campaign announcing her run.

Political history buffs on social media immediately noticed the similarities.

Chisholm entered Congress in 1969, representing New York's 12th district. It wasn't long before she decided to disrupt the political landscape again by launching a bid for president in 1972.

Chisholm's campaign made an impact on young people like Barbara Lee, now a congresswoman herself. At a 50-year celebration of Chisholm's election to Congress last November, Lee, a Democrat from California, told CBS News she was about to flunk out of a college government class at Mills College that required campaign work, since she was uninspired by the other Democrats in the 1972 race. Then Chisholm visited her class.

"[Chisholm] talked about all the issues that were resonating with me as a young African-American single mom on public assistance," Lee said.

Chisholm ultimately lost the Democratic nomination to Sen. George McGovern, but she continued to make an an indelible impact on politics and culture over seven terms in Congress. Harris' tribute to the trailblazer was subtle, but the color scheme and timing of the historic campaign is a nod to the woman who came before her.