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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

NJ high school celebrates voting rights pioneer with original play

civil rights

Perth Amboy’s Thomas Mundy Peterson made electoral history with 1870 ballot

WHAT:  World Premiere of “Casting My Ballot for Liberty:  The Story of Civil Rights Pioneer Thomas Mundy Peterson”, original play by Woodbridge NJ resident L.E. McCullough

WHEN:  Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 at 3:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m.

WHERE:  Academy for Urban Leadership Charter High School, 612 Amboy Ave., Perth Amboy, NJ

PERTH AMBOY, NJ — In his latest historical play, author L.E. McCullough tells the story of a New Jersey man whose simple act of voting marked an important milestone in our nation’s political evolution.

Casting My Ballot for Liberty:  The Story of Civil Rights Pioneer Thomas Mundy Peterson has its world premiere Friday, Feb. 24, 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Academy for Urban Leadership Charter High School, 612 Amboy Ave. in Perth Amboy. The play is part of the City of Perth Amboy’s annual Black History Month programming.

On Mar. 31, 1870, the Metuchen-born Peterson (1824-1904) was the first African-American to vote under the newly-ratified 15th Amendment to the Constitution. His ballot was cast in a local charter election in Perth Amboy. In 1998, by joint resolution of the New Jersey state legislature, March 31st was officially recognized as Thomas Mundy Peterson Day.

Peterson’s vote is a crucial area of American History where New Jersey played a defining, memorable role, asserts playwright L.E. McCullough.

“The 15th Amendment established that the right of a U.S. citizen to vote could not be denied or abridged on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude,” McCullough says. “It brought nearly four million new voters to the polls and almost immediately was under attack by segregationists.”

With 22 published books of original plays and monologues in print, L.E. McCullough’s historic-themed commissions span a wide range of subjects including Ben Franklin, Galileo, WW II journalist Ernie Pyle, 1930s blues musician Leroy Carr, pharmaceutical magnate Eli Lilly, religious leaders Dorothy Day and Catherine McAuley, singer Libby Holman, the U.S. Constitution, Battle of Trenton and New Jersey native President Grover Cleveland. His most recent New York production was as book writer for Orphan Train, a searing look at America’s “surplus children” directed by Patricia Birch and performed at the Grand Central Terminal Centennial celebration.

The Peterson play was inspired by current legislative efforts by various states to restrict voting rights, says McCullough. “Thomas Mundy Peterson’s story is very relevant to our time; hopefully, this play will give young people a better understanding of how important their vote will be to determining their future.”

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