East Orange, NJ, July 20, 2020: Mayor Ted R. Green and the East Orange City Council designated the corner of South Clinton Street and Elmwood Avenue (Fire House Five) as Robert Slaughter Square on Tuesday, July 14. The street renaming was to honor the legacy of Retired Fire Captain Robert Slaughter, a well-respected public servant and the first African American fire captain in the City of East Orange.
Family, friends and local public officials gathered to pay tribute to Captain Slaughter, who also served as Special Chief in charge of Public Relations and Fire Safety. Captain Slaughter was instrumental in the founding of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters (IABPFF), the Firefighters League Advocating Minority Equality (FFLAME), and in 1969, was elected president of the Vulcan Pioneers of New Jersey.
“I’m honored to give a gentleman like Mr. Slaughter his flowers while he is still here,” said Mayor Ted R. Green. “This street-renaming for Mr. Slaughter is to serve as a reminder for all of our young people that visit this corner, so they can remember the esteemed legacy Mr. Slaughter left in the City of East Orange.”
Fifth Ward Councilman Mustafa Brent, who is also a firefighter for the City of Newark, gave remarks on the hardships of being a firefighter during the civil rights movement when segregation existed throughout the state.
“Mr. Slaughter was a firefighter in a time where they used to send firefighters home because they didn’t want them working in a firehouse because it was an all-European crew,” said Brent. “I want all to understand the gravity of not just being a firefighter at that time but elevating to captain and retiring as chief.”
East Orange Fire Chief, Andre Williams reiterated the sentiments of Councilman Brent, speaking to the turbulent time Captain Slaughter had to navigate and how it paved the way for him and East Orange Fire Department which is predominately African American and reflective of the current city population.
“Robert Slaughter came on the job in 1961, that’s before most of us could even vote. It was not easy to be a firefighter anywhere in this country in 1961 as a black man,” said Williams. “What he endured, he endured it for us to stand here today and wear this uniform. Understand that without him, I wouldn’t be standing here. He is a pioneer that fought for equality for African American firefighters.”
Captain Slaughter continues to serve as a role model, mentor and leader dedicated to saving lives by way of prevention and education. Before the street designation was unveiled, Captain Slaughter spoke to the audience of over 50 people, including the East Orange Fire Department.
“I thank everyone for showing up and showing appreciation. I thank everyone that chooses to be a fireman, it wasn’t like that at one time. Thank you for showing up,” said Slaughter.
Captain Slaughter retired with distinction after 29 years of service.