On March 31, 1870, one day after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which allowed him the right to vote, Thomas Peterson became the first African American to cast a ballot in a U.S. election. The citizens of Perth Amboy, N.J. were voting to settle a disagreement over whether to revise the town charter or abandon it in favor of a township form of government.
A cabinet card of Thomas Peterson. Peterson is looking at the camera and wearing a three-piece suit with a medal attached to the left side of the vest. The medal was presented to Peterson in 1884 by the residents of Perth Amboy, N.J. in recognition of his status as the first African American voter in the United States under the provisions of the Fifteenth Amendment. The albumen print is attached to a stiff card backer with wear showing around the edges. There is a printed label on the verso that reads, "Inscription on the Medal. Presented by citizens of Perch Amboy, N.J., to Thomas Peterson, the first colored voter in the United States under the provisions of the Fifteenth Amendment, at an election held in that city March 31st, 1870." The cabinet card was printed as a memento for the medal presentation ceremony.