Thomas Mundy Peterson is known as the first black voter in the United States. America was under a new 15th amendment and Petersen acted quickly. On March 31, 1870, Thomas Mundy Peterson bravely cast his ballot to revise the town’s existing charter. The side he voted for won in a landslide (230-63) and Mundy Peterson was elected to the committee to revise the charter.

Peterson’s mother was a slave and his father worked for the Mundy family. As an adult, Thomas Peterson worked as a custodian at School No. 1. That same school was named after him in 1989. As a registered voter, Thomas Petersen also became the first black man to serve on a jury.

Seventy-dollars was raised and a medal was given to Peterson, naming him the “First Black Negro Voter,” during a Memorial celebration in 1884. While he loved the medal, which carried an outline of Abraham Lincoln on its gold bar, Peterson often resorted to pawning the medal during difficult financial times. The medal is now housed at Xavier University in New Orleans.

The back of the medal reads:

PRESENTED by CITIZENS
OF PERTH AMBOY N.J.
TO
THOMAS PETERSON
THE FIRST COLORED VOTER
IN THE U.S. UNDER THE
PROVISIONS OF THE
15TH AMENDMENT
AT AN
ELECTION HELD IN
THAT CITY
MARCH 31st 1870

Thomas Peterson is buried at the St. Peters Episcopal Church cemetery in Perthy Amboy, New Jersey. When his grave was found years after his passing in 1904, it was given a historical marker. March 31st is considered Thomas Mundy Peterson Day in New Jersey.

 

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