If They Don’t Give You a Seat at the Table, Bring in a Folding Chair

Shirley Chisholm? Donna Brazile? Barbara Lee? Giovanni Piccolino? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: A politician who advocated for inclusive decision-making used the following metaphorical expression to encourage activists to demand representation:

If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.

This saying has been attributed to U.S. Congress member Shirley Chisholm and U.S. political strategist Donna Brazile. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: Shirley Chisholm died in January 2005, and shortly afterward “People” magazine published a tribute to her which included a remark from Donna Brazile who credited Chisholm with the expression. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]2005 January 17, People, Tribute: Shirley Chisholm 1924-2005, A political trailblazer, she made history as the first black woman in Congress, Quote Page 108, Time Inc., New York. (EBSCO Academic … Continue reading

Democratic party activist and longtime friend Donna Brazile still recalls the advice Chisholm once gave her: “She said, ‘If you wait for a man to give you a seat, you’ll never have one! If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.’”

The excerpt above contains the earliest match located by QI. This citation provides substantive support for the ascription Shirley Chisholm.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If They Don’t Give You a Seat at the Table, Bring in a Folding Chair

References

References
1 2005 January 17, People, Tribute: Shirley Chisholm 1924-2005, A political trailblazer, she made history as the first black woman in Congress, Quote Page 108, Time Inc., New York. (EBSCO Academic Search Elite)