Arthur Hardwick & Conrad Chisholm In ‘Shirley’ Film: Is Arthur Dead?


Shirley Chisholm was married to Conrad, and it felt like they understood each other in ways nobody else could. Shirley decided to run for the presidential elections, and it changed a lot of things for her and even for Conrad. One can’t even begin to imagine the kind of stress they both would have dealt with, and it took a toll on their marriage. Conflicts started to arise, and soon, they realized that it was probably in the best interest of both of them not to stay together. So, let’s find out what happened between Shirley and Conrad and how she ended up with Arthur Hardwick Jr. 

Why did Shirley and Arthur part ways? 

It was not common for a man to play second fiddle to a woman in a patriarchal society, but Conrad did that with a lot of grace. He knew that his wife was meant to do some great things in life, which is why he provided her with all the support that he could. For the longest time, it felt like both were made for each other, but then eventually, certain things happened, and it created a rift in their marriage. During an event, an anonymous man tried to assassinate Shirley, and she was quite shaken by the entire incident. The fact that she was a public figure hadn’t actually seeped inside Shirley. She didn’t think twice before stepping out in public. She never got scared about her safety, but after that day, things changed, and she realized how fatal it could prove if one voiced their opinions. Shirley had waged war against the redundant practices, and she didn’t even spare the black people; as for her, an act of injustice was wrong, irrespective of who had committed it. So she could have had a lot of enemies or people who wanted to sabotage her career, but still, she never realized that things would go so far that a man would actually try killing her. That day, when she came back to her home, she complained to Conrad that he wasn’t there for her when the man tried to attack her.

In real life, too, Shirley did get a lot of threats, and that is why, in 1972, the US Secret Service was authorized to look after her security. Before that, Conrad handled her security and profession as a private investigator. Conrad believed that it was not his fault that a security lapse happened, and somebody managed to come in such close proximity to her. Conrad got agitated and disappointed, too, and in that fervor, he told his wife that up until then, he had done everything to make sure that her campaign ran smoothly. Had Conrad stopped there, things would have been fine between them, but the man probably wanted to speak his heart out that day. It felt as if there were a lot of suppressed emotions inside him, as the way he replied made sure that it was not just Shirley’s words but also things that happened in the past. Conrad told her that she didn’t need a man but a shadow who followed her wherever she went. In a way, what he wanted to say was that a man who lived with Shirley couldn’t have different opinions and that she had to be a yes-man catering to the needs of his lady at all times.

Obviously, even Shirley got hurt when she heard such statements, and though she didn’t reply back to him, it was evident that she felt really bad and that she didn’t expect such a reply from her husband. The second major fight happened between them when they were both at home and speculating about how much funding they had to run the campaign. What Conrad didn’t understand was why Shirley wanted to spend her personal money when she knew that the chances of her winning the election were quite bleak. Conrad didn’t have any problem with her contesting the election, but his point was that they should spend their savings on it. In a fit of rage, Shirley told him that it was her money and she could do whatever she wanted with it. Obviously, that didn’t go well with Conrad, and he gave Shirley her checkbook and sarcastically asked her to do whatever she wanted. Those conversations made it very clear that both of them wanted very different things in their lives. Shirley was dedicated to her cause, and she expected certain things from her husband. Conrad, on the other hand, believed that he was doing enough for his wife, and it was not fair for her to question his intent. In real life, Conrad and Shirley divorced in 1977, and probably it was the best thing for them. They wanted each other to be happy, and probably, they would have realized that staying together wouldn’t help them achieve that. 

How did Shirley end up with Arthur Hardwick? 

Arther met Shirley for the very first time when they were in New York in 1966, and after that, he joined her campaign for the presidential elections. There was a scene in the film where Barbara Lee wanted to go inside Shirely’s chamber to ask her why she was not attending the African American convention that was supposed to happen in a few days. Arthur stopped her, as he wanted Shirley to eat her lunch as he knew that she had been working since morning. Those little things that he did for her made it very evident that he liked them. After her divorce from Conrad, Shirley married Arthur that same year, and they stayed together till the latter passed away in the year 1986.

Arthur was a part of Shirley’s presidential campaign, and he witnessed her journey from scratch; moreover, he understood the woman more than anybody else. He knew the kind of stress she dealt with on a daily basis, and he had a lot of affection for her. It was evident that, eventually, they were going to end up together. Shirley also needed somebody who didn’t question her way of living her life and who understood that she would probably be able to have a lot of downtime since she had such big dreams and aspirations. Arthur was the first black man from his county to serve in the legislature, and he completed two terms there. After Arthur passed away, Shirley moved to Florida, but due to her deteriorating health, she wasn’t able to stay active in politics after that. 

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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