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Strong political leadership has played an important role in empowering African-Americans and promoting greater equality. However, gaining those leadership positions has been a struggle for African-Americans. Nearly 50 years after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, New Yorkers elected the first black member of the State Legislature. It was 70 years before an African-American was elected to Congress from New York.

Once black men and women were elected to office, many became effective leaders in the struggle for civil rights, authors and promoters of progressive government programs and advocates for social justice. That commitment to justice helped black political leaders ascend to the highest office in the State. Ninety-one years after the first African-American was elected to the State Legislature, Governor David Paterson became New York’s first African- American governor. A few months later, New Yorkers overwhelmingly voted to elect Barack Obama the nation’s first African-American president.

Governor David Paterson  Governor David Paterson
H. Carl McCall  H. Carl McCall
David Dinkins  David Dinkins
Shirley Chisholm  Shirley Chisholm
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.  Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
Edward A. Johnson  Edward A. Johnson
Bessie A. Buchanan  Bessie A. Buchanan
Constance Baker Motley  Constance Baker Motley
Julius A. Archibald  Julius A. Archibald

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