Shirley Ending Explained: What happens at the 1972 Presidential Elections?

The latest Netflix movie Shirley is based on the eventful journey of Shirley Chisholm, detailing her groundbreaking quest to become the President of the United States. 

The historical drama traces Chisholm’s rise from being the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress to her pioneering presidential run. The film features a stellar cast including Regina King, Lucas Hedges, Terrence Howard, and Lance Reddick in one of his last roles.

Regina King not only leads the cast but also serves as a producer, dedicating the project to her late son Ian Alexander Jr. This marks her return to acting in a feature film following his passing in 2022. 

1. What happens at the end of Shirley?

The climax of Shirley is set at the critical 1972 Democratic National Convention, marking the peak of Chisholm’s presidential campaign. In the wake of an assassination attempt on fellow Democrat George Wallace, Chisholm finds herself up against the favored George McGovern, a senator from South Dakota. 

Shirley Ending Explained: What happens at the 1972 Presidential Elections?
Shirley Chisholm | Source: IMDb

Despite setbacks in primaries and caucuses, Chisholm had hoped to leverage support from delegates pledged to other candidates to contest McGovern’s nomination.

However, Walter Fauntroy’s actions at the end of the convention betray his earlier promise to Chisholm, as he transfers his pledged delegates to McGovern instead. This move leaves Chisholm without the necessary delegate support, compelling her to concede and endorse McGovern in a gesture of unity. 

Moreover, Chisholm’s trusted advisor Ron Dellums publicly supports McGovern, effectively ensuring McGovern’s nomination to run against Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential race.

2. What happened at the 1972 Democratic National Convention?

In Shirley, it’s shown that Chisholm could have wielded her 250 pledged delegates to negotiate a better standing for her platform with McGovern. This strategic move had the potential to delay McGovern’s nomination. 

However, due to Fauntroy reneging on his commitment, McGovern was able to secure the nomination in the initial round of voting at the convention.

Despite the financial constraints of her campaign, Chisholm’s performance at the 1972 Democratic National Convention was noteworthy. She secured 5% of the delegates, ranking fourth among the Democratic contenders, following McGovern, Henry M. Jackson, and George Wallace.

3. Why did Shirley lose the 1972 Presidential Elections?

Shirley Chisholm neither won nor lost the presidency at the 1972 Presidential Election, as she didn’t even advance to the stage of running in the general election. 

She faced setbacks in various state primaries and caucuses, crucial for securing the delegates needed to become the Democratic nominee. However, George McGovern achieved it decisively. 

Recognizing the insurmountable odds after the disloyalty of Fauntroy and Dellums, Chisholm ended her presidential campaign. Nonetheless, her campaign stands as a significant symbolic triumph, cementing her legacy as an influential icon in American political history.

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4. About Shirley

Shirley is a 2024 American biographical drama film written and directed by John Ridley. It depicts the 1972 presidential run of Shirley Chisholm, who was already the first Black woman to be elected to the United States Congress.

The film stars Regina King in the title role, alongside Lance Reddick, Lucas Hedges, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Christina Jackson, Michael Cherrie, André Holland, and Terrence Howard.

Shirley had a limited theatrical release in the United States on March 15, 2024, before its streaming debut on Netflix on March 22, 2024.

Pratyasha Sarkar

Pratyasha Sarkar

Officially a student of literature, but unofficially a defence lawyer of fictional characters. I am mostly either feasting on chocolate chip cookies or binge watching sitcoms. Also, I firmly believe mint ice cream tastes like toothpaste.


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