James Miller Baxter (1845 – December 28, 1909) was the first African-American principal of a school in Newark, New Jersey, taking the position at age 19 in 1864 and serving as Newark's only African – American principal until 1909, shortly before his death.[1][2]

Baxter was born in Philadelphia to James and Elizabeth Baxter, part of the city's small African-American middle class. In 1861 at age 16 he enrolled at the Institute for Colored Youth and graduated from the 4-year program in 3 years. After graduation he was elected as an officer of an African-American literary and debate society, the Frederick Douglass Lyceum.[3]

Two months after accepting a teaching position teaching position at Newark's State Street Public School, he was appointed the school's principal. In 1869 he opened a night school open to older students.[3]

Baxter married Pauline L. Baxter in 1877 and they parented five children, Elizabeth Baxter (b.1878), James L. Baxter (b. 1881), George Baxter (b. 1883), Louis Baxter (b. 1885), and Earnest Baxter (b. 1889). He retired in July 1909 and died in Newark from heart disease in December 1909.[3]

He was known for insisting in 1871 that African – American children who had graduated from grammar school should be admitted to the all-white Newark High School. One of the graduates of his school, Irene Pataquan Mulford, became the first African – American student of the high school.[4][3]

The James M. Baxter Terrace Housing Projects, completed in 1941, were named in his honor.[4]


  1. ^ "Colored instructor dead". New York Times. 29 December 1909. Retrieved 6 June 2020. reprinted by Villanova University Library
  2. ^ Boyd, Kendra; Fuentes, Marisa J.; Gray White, Deborah (2020). Scarlet and Black, Volume Two: Constructing Race and Gender at Rutgers, 1865-1945. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 9781978813038. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d "James M. Baxter, Jr. (1845-1909)". Villanova University Library. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b O'Brien, Kathleen (1 April 2019). "Black History Month: Newark project honors influential city educator James Baxter". Retrieved 6 June 2020.