MARCH 31, 1870

One day after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, Thomas Mundy Peterson of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, became the first Black American to vote in an election under that amendment. 
Peterson served as a school principal and later became the city’s first Black officeholder and the first Black person to ever serve on a jury. To honor him as the first Black voter after passage of the 15th Amendment, the community raised enough money to award him a gold medallion  (now housed at Xavier University in New Orleans) that featured Abraham Lincoln. In 1989, the school where he worked was renamed after him. In New Jersey, March 31 is recognized as Thomas Mundy Peterson Day, honoring his historic vote.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.