General Timeline of African American History in Paterson, NJ


The timeline below was created to assist with the development of the Museum’s exhibition: Thus Shall They Upward, Onward Press, which was on display in 2020. The timeline contains many important dates related to Paterson’s African American Community and to achievements and accomplishments of individual African American citizens. We now share it to provide a starting point for researchers who are interested in learning more about Paterson’s history.


1600-1740 Enslaved Africans brought to the Passaic Valley Region by Dutch settlers to work as farm laborers and household staff
1664-1702 NJ Proprietary Government encouraged slavery by offering additional acres to residents who imported slaves
1745 4,600 slaves are recorded living in New Jersey
1775-1781 British officers release/steal the slaves of Patriots
1786 Slave trade in New Jersey abolished
1789 The last will and testament of Michael Vreeland lists 10 slaves among property
1792 Paterson township founded- few families in the city own slaves
1700s Tavern keeper on Main street near Broadway sold slaves and horses south (source William Nelson History of Paterson)
1800 State slave population recorded at 12,422 or 13,000
1804 Partial Emancipation passed in New Jersey: Women receive freedom at age 20, men at age 25
1815-1818 Mill owners place ads to purchase the expired time of “Negro lads”
1834 Godwin Street African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church founded
1841 The Citizens of Paterson send an address to the New Jersey Legislature on behalf of the colored population
1841 Josiah Huntoon first arrives in Paterson
1846 NJ Emancipation Act- slaves become apprentices
1850 Census of Paterson lists three slaves in residence: Jud Vreeland (87), Diana Thompson (50), and Betty Paterson (70)
1850s-1865 Underground Railroad activities: John Avison (insurance agent/justice of peace), Darius Wills (postmaster), Isaac Van Blarcom (head of Passaic Brick Co.), Henry M. Low (cotton yarn manufacturer), Josiah Huntoon, Nathaniel Lane (stove dealer), Alexander Freeman, Horatio Moses (tinsmith)

William Van Rensalier, freedman and his business partner Josiah Huntoon operate an Underground Railroad Station from their Excelsior Coffee and Spice Factory (132-134 Broadway)

1855 First “colored school” opens- Miss Eliza M. Halstead was selected as the school’s first principal
1859 Fredrick Douglass gets the train in Paterson while traveling from Philadelphia to Canada in late October. Douglass was quietly leaving the country, so as not to be caught up in the aftermath of John Brown’s failed raid on Harper’s Ferry
1861-1865 1,185 African American troops from New Jersey fight for the Union. At least eight were from Paterson, in the 24th and 43rd regiments. William Anthony, James Brown, Francis Davis, John Jackson, Henry Thompson, Samuel Thompson, Alfred Tucker, Thomas Vreeland
1865-1875 The United States experiences the first Great Migration of African Americans from Southern to Northern states. Many of Paterson’s new residents settle around River Street, between Main and Straight streets, an area which came to be known as the African Shore
1870s Few factories in Paterson hire African Americans. Henry Hopper, a freedman, hires fellow African Americans for his factory on Marshall street where they make hammers, axes and other tools (154 Marshall, later 159-161 Marshall)
1872 African Americans are allowed to attend white schools in the city
1883 William Hopper runs for a school administrative position and loses
1886 The Calvary Baptist Church is the first Baptist congregation of African Americans in the city
1890s Samuel G. Walker becomes 1st steward of Hamilton Club
1899 George Wanton and William H. Thompkins are awarded the medal of honor on June 23rd 1899 for “Voluntarily went ashore in the face of the enemy and aided in the rescue of his wounded comrades; this after several previous attempts at rescue had been frustrated.” During the Battle of Tayacoba in the Spanish American War (June 30, 1898). Both men were members of the 10th Cavalry regiment famously known as the “Buffalo Soldiers”
1890s Godwin Street African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church moves to Ellison and Summer Streets and changes its name to 1st AME Zion
1893 On October 26th  singer Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones (Black Patti) and the Black Patti Troubadours performed at the Y.M.C.A. on Ellison Street.
1895 Group of African American singers visit Paterson for a church concert and have difficulty finding lodging
1896 On October 12th -14th  singer Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones (Black Patti) and the Black Patti Troubadours performed at the Bijou
1900s-1930s Dr. Norman Cotton moves to Paterson and becomes a prominent African American Doctor in the city
1902 From August 21st -23rd , singer Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones (Black Patti) and the Black Patti Troubadours performed at the Paterson Opera House
1907 On August 24th singer Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones (Black Patti) and the Black Patti Troubadours performed at the Opera House
1910 The Colored Men’s Association Hall opened
1911 Minerva Miller sues Show Movie Theater for trying to charge her 25 cent entry (as opposed to 5 cents) for Nickelodeon. Lawyer Robert F. Buckley wins case she is rewarded $500, the maximum allowed. Lawyer for defense was Caroll (same Caroll who gave strikers harsh sentences in 1913). Early Civil Rights victory for NJ
1912 On May 26th, the Paterson Smart Set (Semi-Professional Baseball Team) hosted the New York Giants in Paterson’s Olympic Park. The Giants were hissed off the field and the game was given to the Smart Set
1913 Hubert Harrison, orator and political activist, was one of the IWW members who traveled and spoke in Paterson during the Silk Strike
1914 Dr. Booker T. Washington visits Paterson on Sept 7th, part of a four-day tour of the State. He arrived at 5pm from Montclair. He went first to Walker’s catering establishment for a meal. Then on to the High School for a program presided over by Dr. Norman Cotton. Following the program, he was transported to Newark
1914 There are 4 African American churches in Paterson: 2 Baptist/ AME Zion/ Presbyterian
1915 On Feb 27th, W.E. DuBois spoke to the Colored Men’s Association
1915 16-year-old John A. Sisco saves Josephine Domico from drowning after she falls from a boat into the Passaic River on August 11th. John was awarded a Bronze medal for heroism for his actions
1919 Paterson chapter of the NAACP is formed
1920-1960 High dropout rate among African American students in Paterson Public Schools. Among graduates very few go on to college
1921 Marian Anderson, singer of classical and spiritual music, performed at the Entrenue Hall on December 13th
1921 George Henry Wanton is part of honor guard/ pall bearer for burial of the Unknown Soldier of World War I
1922 A. Phillip Randolph, Civil Rights Leader, Labor Activist and Socialist, addressed the Philosophical Society
1927 The Negro in Paterson, A Study of Leadership- Master’s Thesis from Columbia University by Louis R. Binder
1927 26 African American citizens own their own businesses in Paterson
1927 Annie Randolph, the first woman, African American social worker is appointed by the court
1932 Paul Robeson, singer and actor from Princeton, performed at Eastside High School on March 15th
1933 Hinchliffe hosts Colored Championship of the Nation (Negro League World Series)
1934 Hinchliffe stadium becomes home to the New York Black Yankees. They continue to play in the stadium until 1945
1935-1940 Second Migration of African Americans to Paterson from Southern states
1938-1943 Virgil Reed serves a 5-year term as Justice of the Peace in the 4th Ward. Virgil was also the President of Asphalt Workers Union of NJ
1941-1945 African Americans begin to work in Paterson’s factories, filling wartime vacancies
1947 Being a Negro in Paterson by Anita Flynn
1947 15 separate Fraternal and civic organizations in Paterson for African Americans
1947 Larry Doby becomes the first African American to play in the American League and the second African American to be signed on a Major League Baseball team when he signs a contract with the Cleveland Indians
1947 Five African American teachers work in the Paterson public schools
1947 African American congregations in the city consist of: African American Catholic church, Episcopal mission, 5 Baptist, AME Zion, 1 Presbyterian, 10 other churches
1949 Commission on Human Relations formed to help combat discrimination and improve race relations in city
1955 Marian Anderson, singer of classical and spiritual music, performed at Eastside High School on October 17th
1957 On June 22nd, Rosa Parks visited Paterson and was a guest of the A.M.E. Zion Church
1959 Henry Otis Harris appointed the 1st African American firefighter and remains the only African American firefighter for 10 years
1960 Jimmy Charles (singer) gets a gold record for “A Million to One.” He was from 12th Ave
1961-1964 Half the teachers in city schools are African American
1963 Wolff Report completed- NYU Sociologist studied the racial and ethnic balance in the Paterson Public Schools and made recommendations for changes. Getting away from neighborhood schools would change the status of the “ghetto schools” in the African American and Puerto Rican areas.
1964 Paterson Race Riots
1964 John “Johnny” Briggs begins his Major League Baseball career playing for the Philadelphia Phillies
1964 African Americans are 1/6 of city population
1964 In June, the 4th Ward Democrats elect 2 African American co-leaders: Bess Jamison and Harold Brown
1964 Kenneth Bolds graduates Eastside goes on to be a famous drummer
1965 1st African American principal appointed to School No 6
1965 William Kline as the 1st  African American Alderman in 4th Ward
1965 Vera Thompson, the Vice Principal of School No 6, is presented with the Sojourner Truth Award for advancing the status of African Americans
1966 Ambassador Drill Team formed
1966 Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a middleweight boxer, is arrested and charged with a triple homicide in Paterson
1966 James Meredith and Floyd McKissick visited Paterson to discuss Civil Rights with Mayor Graves
1967 Muhammed Ali visits Paterson and demonstrates support for fellow boxer Rubin Carter
1967 Rubin “Hurricane” Carter convicted for murder
1968 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at Bethel A.M.E. Church on Auburn Street, on March 27th
1968 The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fund is established for recreation and employment services in Paterson
1968 2000 Passaic County residents participate in “Poor People’s March” in Washington
1968 Mayor Kramer’s term as Mayor begins and ushers in an era of diversity to city government, employing more African American and Spanish speakers
1968 Rev. Ralph Abernathy visits city to gain attention for the police brutality investigations (November)
1969 The Negro in the History of Paterson, New Jersey by Karel M Waer
1969 26 separate Fraternal and Civic organizations in Paterson for African Americans
1969 Ambassador Drill Team travels and performs outside of Paterson, performing at the Lincoln Center
1971 Sylvia Lorraine (Bell) McEachern Ulmer serves as first African American City Clerk in Paterson. She held that position until her retirement in 1990
1976 Dr. Frank Napier Jr. becomes Paterson’s first African American Superintendent of Schools
1978 19-year-old Franklin Jacobs makes the world record high jump of 7ft 7 ¼ inches at the Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden, New York.
1979 City’s 1st Martin Luther King March held on January 15th
1981 Great Paterson News newspaper established. Paper was focused on the needs and interests of the African American Community in Paterson
1982 Rosa Parks speaks at PCCC Nov 20th. Mayor Frank Graves presented her with keys to the city and Graham Ave was renamed for her. She was also honored at the Brownstone and Community Baptist Church of Love
1983 Community Baptist Church of Love founds private elementary school, the only private school owned and operated by African Americans in Passaic County
1984 Neer Pharmacy, former Huntoon property was demolished
1985 Rubin “Hurricane” Carter is released for wrongful imprisonment
1986 Rosa Parks visits Rosa Parks School
1994 Judge Stephen Womack becomes the first African American judge of State Superior Court in Passaic County
1994 Rev. Dr. Albert P. Rowe serves as election official at election of Nelson Mandella in South Africa
1996 April 14- May 17, the Paterson Museum presents “As I was Saying…: Reflections of African Americans in Paterson”. Exhibit was a collaborating with the Silk City Americorps and the City of Paterson/National Parks Service Urban History Initiative
1997 Martin G. Barnes elected as Paterson’s first African American Mayor. He served in that office until 2002
1997 Tim Thomas drafted into the NBA to play for the Philadelphia 76ers
1997 US Post Office on Ward Street in Paterson named in honor of Larry Doby, who worked for the postal service
1998 Larry Doby selected for inclusion in the National Baseball Hall of Fame
1998 Field in Eastside Park renamed Larry Doby Field
2000 Paterson Free Public Library unveils Paintings of Paterson Abolitionists (Nov 2) including a portrait of Josiah Huntoon painted by Thomas Waterman Wood and a tribute to William Van Rensalier by James Ransome
2002 Larry Doby statue unveiled at Larry Doby Field in Eastside Park
2003 The Huntoon-Van Rensalier Underground Railroad Foundation
2004 First Annual African American Heritage Parade held in Paterson
2008 Essence Carson is drafted into the WNBA to play for the New York Liberty
2008 Dedication of John Briggs Athletic Field in Westside Park in honor of John Briggs, Sept 27th
2009 President Obama signs bill creating the Paterson Great Falls National Park, March 30th
2010 Victor Cruz signs to be wide receiver for the New York Giants
2010 Hinchliffe Stadium hosted the US Postal Service as it unveiled the Rube Foster Negro Leagues Baseball Commemorative Stamp, Sept 4th
2010 Book Through the Years: Rev. Dr. Albert P. Rowe and Mrs. Dorothy Collins-Rowe published by the Anniversary Committee. Looking back over 42 years of Christian leadership by Pastor Rowe and First Lady Dorothy Rowe and highlighting the cherished memories
2011 President Obama visited Paterson to inspect the damage after Hurricane Irene
2012 Tyrone Collins Memorial Park in the 1st Ward is dedicated. Tyrone Collins played basketball for Kennedy High, graduating in 1969 and returning to coach from 1977-1996
2012 1st AME Zion Church recognized as city historic site
2012 US Postal Service creates the Larry Doby stamp
2012 Victor Cruz founds the Victor Cruz Foundation, which promotes educational and financial literacy, S.T.E.M and college readiness
2012 Freedom Boulevard Project created 13 commemorative stamps honoring contemporary African Americans in Paterson
2012 Negro League Baseball: The Rule of the Day produced and written by Jimmy Richardson
2013 Hinchliffe Stadium is listed as a Municipal and National Landmark
2013 East 18th Street named Rev. Dr. Albert P. Rowe Square
2013 Auburn Street rededicated as Freedom Boulevard
2013 Freedom Boulevard Project created 6 commemorative stamps honoring contemporary African Americans in Paterson
2014 Book: The 1964 Paterson Riot: Three Days that Changed a City by George Lipsitz with Richard E. Polton
2014 Memorial to the partnership abolitionist Josiah Huntoon and William Van Rensalier and their work on the underground railroad unveiled
2014 Edward (Eddie) Cotton joined the Board of the International Boxing Federation
2016 May 7th, a reededication ceremony of Paterson’s Colored Men’s Association building is held. Festivities included the unveiling of a historic plaque
2016 Dr. Albert Rowe publishes Dying to Live
2017 Section of 12th Ave Named Ambassador Way
2017 National Park Service produces videos- Hinchliffe Stadium Memories and The Legendary Larry Doby
2018 Talena Lachelle Queen announced Poet Laureate of Paterson
2019 Shona L. Mack Pollock, Esq. sworn in as first African American Woman to serve as Passaic County Elections Superintendent in Paterson
2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Memorial opens on Auburn Street
2019 Freedom Boulevard Project created 2 commemorative stamps honoring contemporary African Americans in Paterson


Have you noticed that we missed an important date in Paterson’s African American history? Email us and let us know what it is! This document is intended to be a baseline to assist researchers, and as such, we are very happy to continue to add to it.