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Alexander J. Chenault

politician, state senator, and first black governor of New York State, was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Basil Paterson and Portia Paterson. His father was a political powerhouse in Harlem, serving as state senator, deputy mayor, and secretary of state. As an infant, David developed an infection that left him completely blind in his left eye and with severely limited vision in his right eye. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to the suburban town of Hempstead, New York, which allowed him to get a regular public education instead of special education classes he would have been limited to in New York City.

Paterson fought hard throughout his childhood to overcome his disability and earn the respect of his peers refusing to learn to read Braille or use a cane or seeing eye dog As a sixth grader at Hempstead s Fulton School Paterson sat in the ...


Dinah Mayo-Bobee

William Henry Seward, one of seven children born to the slaveholders Samuel Sweezy Seward and Mary Jennings Seward, became one of the most prominent antislavery politicians of the antebellum period. Trained as a lawyer, Seward served in the New York State Senate from 1830 to 1834 and was elected governor of New York in 1839. While he was governor, Seward signed legislation that protected the rights of New York's black citizens. The laws provided for jury trials in runaway cases, helped recover persons kidnapped into slavery, guaranteed education to black children, and freed slaves brought into the state. After leaving the governor's office in 1843, Seward continued his antislavery activism. In 1846 he defended Henry Wyatt and William Freeman African Americans charged with murder in Auburn New York In each case Seward defended the accused on the ground of insanity but public outrage and hostility over the ...