Home » Events, Meetings » Token on the Freedman’s Coat: The Story behind Thomas Mundy Peterson’s 1884 Voting Medal

Token on the Freedman’s Coat: The Story behind Thomas Mundy Peterson’s 1884 Voting Medal


"To Cast A Freedman's Vote" Book Cover


Author Gordon Bond will discuss his book, To Cast a Freedmans Vote, the story of the first African American voter after the Civil War under the Fifteenth Amendment, at the April meeting of the Historical Society of Scotch Plains and Fanwood. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25, at the Shady Rest Country Club, 820 Jerusalem Rd. (at the corner of Plainfield Avenue) in Scotch Plains.

On May 30, 1884, citizens of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, pinned a gold medal to Thomas Mundy Peterson’s coat in honor of his having done something that, in another part of the nation, a noose might have been put around his neck for daring. It had been proven that on March 31, 1870, Peterson was the first African American to vote under the Fifteenth Amendment. Ever since, the story of his historic vote has been told in terms of how unusually progressive Perth Amboy’s white community had been, having both encouraged and celebrated his suffrage as a matter of civic pride. Yet, in the process, Peterson himself has become a prop in his own story. The event that lifted his name out of obscurity had ironically obscured him.

“Token on the Freedman’s Coat” not only gives the background of this extraordinary event, but places it in a broader historical context that both underscores its significance and puts Peterson’s vote in a new and more complex light. This talk is based on Bond’s latest book, To Cast a Freedmans Vote: Thomas Mundy Peterson at the Intersection of Suffrage, Citizenship and Civil Rights, which he will have available for sale and signing following his program.

Bond is an independent historian, author and lecturer. He is the founder and ePublisher of www.GardenStateLegacy.com, a resources website dedicated to New Jersey history. He is the author of six books on aspects of New Jersey history, and has written a large number of articles and reviews for Garden State Legacy. He is currently working on two new books. One is about the Rev. Hannibal Goodwin and his invention of roll photographic film in Newark, New Jersey. The other explores the business and personal relationships between Benjamin Franklin and James Parker, New Jersey’s first printer.

Bond also operates a freelance graphic design business, Gordon Bond Design. He designed and guest curated exhibits for the Middlesex County Office of Arts and History, the Abraham Staats House in South Bound Brook, and the Historical Association of Woodbridge Township.

We are hoping to be able to webcast this event.  Further info will be posted on our website and FaceBook page as our plans develop.

The upcoming meeting is free and all are welcome. Refreshments and fellowship will follow the presentation. For questions, please email Info@HistoricalSocietySPFNJ.org or call 908/322-6700 Extension 230.


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