Skip to main content

BLACK HISTORY MONTH IN NJ: We Salute Middlesex County's Mr. Thomas Mundy Peterson

By rlsmetro on
New Jersey

The first African American to vote in the United States after the passage of the 15th Amendment, Mr. Thomas Mundy Peterson -born October 6, 1824- of Perth Amboy, was the first African-American to vote in an election under the just-enacted provisions of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

His vote was cast on March 31, 1870, according to published reports on Wikipedia.

The following was published on "It Happened Here NJ" using the website (www.state.nj.us):

"on March 31, 1870, one day after it was adopted, Thomas Peterson Mundy of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, became the first African American to vote under the authority of this new law.

New Jersey’s legislative record on race and suffrage is complicated and reveals just how remarkable Mundy’s actions were. In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment (which abolished slavery) was not initially ratified by the New Jersey State Legislature, although ratification did follow in 1866.

After a change in leadership, the legislature also ratified the Fourteenth Amendment that year, but when political leadership changed yet again, the ratification was rescinded in 1868. Keeping true to the now established pattern, the New Jersey State Legislature voted against the Fifteenth Amendment's ratification in 1870.

The Amendment, which gave black men the right to vote, was ratified on March 30, 1870, despite the lack of support from New Jersey. Thomas Mundy Peterson cast his historic vote the very next day.

Years later, Peterson liked to describe how one white man, upon seeing him vote, ripped up his own ballot and declared that the franchise was worthless if a black man was allowed to vote; Peterson said that particular white man did not vote again for at least a decade. But not all whites opposed black suffrage; some political figures recognized that blacks could be a significant voting block and sought their support.

Peterson remained an active member of the Perth Amboy community for the rest of his life, continuing to vote and even serving on the town’s committee to revise the City Charter.

Through his actions, he became one of the many New Jersey citizens who pushed forward the cause of liberty, even in the face of opposition and discrimination".

INFORMATION & IMAGE CREDIT: Wikipedia, "It Happened Here NJ" (www.state.nj.us)

SPONSORS: Metro Media Institute, Nino's Pizza, Bergen Street Harrison NJ, and William Paterson University