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Thomas Mundy Peterson

Thomas Mundy Peterson

Celebrating Black History Month

Mission Commission Profile of the Week

The material here is compiled mainly from Mycentraljersey.com and a few other sources noted in the references [1-6].

Thomas Mundy Peterson
Thomas Mundy Peterson Photo: Wikipedia [2]

Do you know that March 31 each year is Thomas Mundy Peterson Day in New Jersey? The State Legislature passed a resolution on April 3, 1998, and made the declaration. Also, Middlesex County of NJ recently June 2021 named its newest park along the waterfront in Perth Amboy as Thomas Mundy Peterson Park[1].

Thomas Mundy Peterson is best remembered as the first Africa American in the nation who exercised the right to vote under the 15th Amendment on March 31, 1870, just one day after its certification as law of the land. He cast his ballot in a municipal referendum at Perth Amboy City Hall, considering the revisions to the city’s charter. He was in favor of the revisions and his side won 230 to 63. He was later appointed to be a part of a seven-member committee to make further changes to the charter, leading to its final approval by the State Legislature a year later. He remained active in the civic affairs of Perth Amboy and Middlesex County throughout his life.

Thomas Mundy Peterson Park
Thomas Mundy Peterson Park, Middlesex County (June 2021, Courtesy of Middlesex County) [1]

Peterson was born in Metuchen, NJ. His father, also called Thomas, was a freeman who worked for the Mundy family. His mother was a former slave in Freehold, NJ. The Peterson family later moved to Perth Amboy. Peterson worked in many jobs around the Perth Amboy area but for a few years, he was employed by the Board of Education and became the first custodian of the new Public School No. 1. The school was renamed in 1989 as the Thomas Mundy Peterson School in his honor. He died on Feb. 4, 1904, and was buried at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Perth Amboy.

Recognizing Peterson as the first African American to vote under the 15th Amendment, the citizens of Perth Amboy raised money and presented him a gold medal on Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) on May 30, 1884.


[1] Susan Loyer (2021, June 28), Middlesex County park named for the first Black man to vote in the US — a Perth Amboy resident, mycentraljersey.com https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/local/middlesex-county/2021/06/28/middlesex-county-nj-park-named-first-black-man-vote-us/5325176001/

[2] Thomas Mundy Peterson, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Mundy_Peterson

[3] Thomas Mundy Peterson School by Don Morfe of Baltimore (2016, April 16), HMdb.org https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=93943

[4] It Happened Here New Jersey,

[5] Thomas Mundy Peterson Medallion.tif,

[6] The Unveiling of the Thomas Mundy Peterson Plaque, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, https://www.stpetersepiscopal.com/mundypeterson