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Plainfield, New Jersey
City
City of Plainfield
Aerial photograph of Plainfield
Aerial photograph of Plainfield
Flag of Plainfield, New Jersey
Flag
Nickname(s): 
The Queen City
Map of Plainfield in Union County. Inset: Location of Union County highlighted in the State of New Jersey.
Map of Plainfield in Union County. Inset: Location of Union County highlighted in the State of New Jersey.
Census Bureau map of Plainfield, New Jersey
Census Bureau map of Plainfield, New Jersey
Country  United States
State  New Jersey
County Flag of Union County, New Jersey.gif Union
Incorporated April 21, 1869
Government
 • Type Special Charter
 • Body City Council
Area
 • Total 5.97 sq mi (15.46 km2)
 • Land 5.96 sq mi (15.43 km2)
 • Water 0.01 sq mi (0.02 km2)  0.15%
Area rank 258th of 565 in state
8th of 21 in county
Elevation
95 ft (29 m)
Population
 • Total 49,808
 • Estimate 
(2019)
50,317
 • Rank 776th in country (as of 2019)
35th of 566 in state
3rd of 21 in county
 • Density 8,270.1/sq mi (3,193.1/km2)
 • Density rank 45th of 566 in state
4th of 21 in county
Time zone UTC−05:00 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−04:00 (Eastern (EDT))
ZIP Codes
07060-07063
Area code(s) 732 and 908
FIPS code 3403959190
GNIS feature ID 0885355
Plainfield Station from North Avenue
Downtown Plainfield Train Station, one of two stations running to New York City on the Raritan Valley Line
NETHERWOOD STATION, UNION COUNTY, NJ
Netherwood station on the Raritan Valley Line to Newark/New York, one of two train stations in Plainfield

Plainfield is a city in Union County, New Jersey, United States, known by its nickname as "The Queen City." The city is both a regional hub for Central New Jersey and a bedroom suburb of the New York Metropolitan area, located within the core of the Raritan Valley region. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population increased to 49,808, its highest ever recorded population in any decennial census, with the population having increased by 1,979 (+4.1%) from the 47,829 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 1,262 (+2.7%) from the 46,567 counted in the 1990 Census. The Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program calculated that the city's population was 50,317 in 2019, ranking the city the 776th-most-populous in the country.

The area of present-day Plainfield was originally formed as Plainfield Township, a township that was created on April 5, 1847, from portions of Westfield Township, while the area was still part of Essex County. On March 19, 1857, Plainfield Township became part of the newly created Union County.

Plainfield was incorporated as a city by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 21, 1869, from portions of Plainfield Township, based on the results of a referendum held that same day. The city and township coexisted until March 6, 1878, when Plainfield Township was dissolved and parts were absorbed by Plainfield city, with the remainder becoming Fanwood Township (now known as Scotch Plains).

The name "Plainfield", also used in both North Plainfield and South Plainfield, is derived from a local estate or from its scenic location.

History

Bungalow in Plainfield, New Jersey
A typical Bungalow-style house in Plainfield

Plainfield was settled in 1684 by Quakers, and incorporated as a city in 1869. Formerly a bedroom suburb in the New York metropolitan area, it has become the urban center of 10 closely allied municipalities, with diversified industries, including printing and the manufacture of chemicals, clothing, electronic equipment, and vehicular parts. Among the several 18th-century buildings remaining are a Friends' meetinghouse (1788), the Martine house (1717), and the Nathaniel Drake House (1746), known as George Washington's headquarters during the Battle of Short Hills in June 1777. Nearby Washington Rock is a prominent point of the Watchung Mountains and is reputed to be the vantage point from which Washington watched British troop movements.

In 1902, the New Jersey Legislature approved measures that would have allowed the borough of North Plainfield to become part of Union County (a measure repealed in 1903) and to allow for a merger of North Plainfield with the City of Plainfield subject to the approval of a referendum by voters in both municipalities.

Plainfield is the birthplace of P-Funk. George Clinton founded The Parliaments while working in a barber shop in Plainfield. Parliament-Funkadelic was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Plainfield has been home to former New Jersey governor James McGreevey.

In sports history, Plainfield is the birthplace and/or home of several current and former athletes, including professionals and well-known amateurs. Included in their number are Milt Campbell, the 1956 Olympic Decathlon gold medalist (the first African-American to earn this title), Joe Black, the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game, Jeff Torborg, former MLB player, coach and manager, and Vic Washington, NFL player.

Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor appointed to oversee prosecutions in the Watergate break-in and related criminal activity during the Nixon administration, was born in Plainfield.

There are numerous sites, including homes, parks, and districts in the city that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While not listed, the Plainfield Armory, a prominent landmark completed in 1932, was sold by the state in 2013 as surplus property.

Plainfield's northeast corner, known as the "Sleepy Hollow" section of the city, was and still is characterized by its array of finely landscaped streets and neighborhoods with homes defined by a broad array of architectural styles, most built during the first half of the twentieth century. As one browses the tree-lines neighborhoods, it is obvious that the lot sizes vary, but the stateliness and distinction of each house is evident, whether a stately Queen Anne mansion or gingerbread cottage. Most lots are nicely landscaped and semi or fully private. Sleepy Hollow has remained a desirable place to buy and live despite the decay in other parts of the city.

In its heyday, Plainfield was a regional shopping and entertainment center. Residents of nearby Union, Middlesex and Somerset counties would drive to shop and explore the business districts of Plainfield. Other than during the holidays, peak shopping times in Plainfield were Thursday nights and Saturday, when Front Street and the areas around it bustled.

Plainfield had several entertainment venues. At the peak, there were four operating movie theaters: the Strand, the Liberty, the Paramount and the Oxford theaters. Prior to 1960, Cedarbrook park, at the south end of town, and Greenbrook park, at the north end of town, provided every opportunity for recreation, including ice skating in the winter, fishing, hiking, visits to the ice cream vendor and playgrounds.

Manufacturers of heavy goods included Chelsea Fan Corp., Mack Truck and National Starch and Chemical Corp. Plainfield Iron and Metal maintained a large scrapyard on the west end of town.

Civil disturbance

Plainfield was affected by the Plainfield riots in July 1967. This civil disturbance occurred in the wake of the larger Newark riots. A Plainfield police officer died, about fifty people were injured, and several hundred thousand dollars of property was damaged by looting and arson. The New Jersey National Guard restored order after three days of unrest. This civil unrest caused a massive white flight, characterized by the percentage of black residents rising from 40% in 1970 to 60% a decade later.

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city had a total area of 6.034 square miles (15.626 km2), including 6.023 square miles (15.599 km2) of land and 0.011 square miles (0.027 km2) of water (0.18%).

Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the city include Netherwood.

The city is located in Central Jersey on the southwestern edge of Union County and is bordered by nine municipalities. Scotch Plains lies to the north and east, and Fanwood to the northeast. Bordered to the south are South Plainfield, and Piscataway. To the southwest lies Dunellen and to the southeast, Edison. All which are in Middlesex County. Green Brook Township lies to the northwest, North Plainfield lies to the north and Watchung borders to the northwest. All three of these municipalities are in Somerset County.

Plainfield is in the Raritan Valley, a line of cities in central New Jersey, and lies on the east side of the Raritan Valley along with Edison.

Climate

Plainfield has a humid continental climate, characterized by brisk to cold winters and hot, muggy summers. The lowest temperature ever recorded was −17 °F (−27 °C) on February 9, 1934, and the highest temperature ever recorded was 106 °F (41 °C) on July 10, 1936, and August 11, 1949. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Plainfield has a humid subtropical climate, which is abbreviated as "Cfa" on climate maps.

Climate data for Plainfield, New Jersey (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 39.3
(4.06)
43.4
(6.33)
52.5
(11.39)
63.9
(17.72)
74.1
(23.39)
82.6
(28.11)
86.8
(30.44)
85.1
(29.5)
77.7
(25.39)
65.9
(18.83)
54.9
(12.72)
43.4
(6.33)
64.13
(17.852)
Average low °F (°C) 23.3
(-4.83)
25.4
(-3.67)
31.7
(-0.17)
41.0
(5)
50.2
(10.11)
59.8
(15.44)
65.0
(18.33)
63.4
(17.44)
55.7
(13.17)
44.2
(6.78)
36.0
(2.22)
27.8
(-2.33)
43.63
(6.458)
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.70
(94)
2.91
(73.9)
4.29
(109)
3.77
(95.8)
4.22
(107.2)
4.12
(104.6)
5.30
(134.6)
3.58
(90.9)
4.64
(117.9)
4.30
(109.2)
3.90
(99.1)
3.72
(94.5)
48.44
(1,230.4)
Snowfall inches (cm) 8.0
(20.3)
10.0
(25.4)
3.6
(9.1)
.8
(2)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
.8
(2)
4.0
(10.2)
27.2
(69.1)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 9.7 8.3 9.5 10.9 10.3 10.0 9.4 8.8 8.3 8.3 9.1 9.7 112.3
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 2.9 2.0 1.4 .2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .2 1.4 8.1
Source: NOAA

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 5,095
1880 8,125 59.5%
1890 11,267 38.7%
1900 15,369 36.4%
1910 20,550 33.7%
1920 27,700 34.8%
1930 34,422 24.3%
1940 37,469 8.9%
1950 42,366 13.1%
1960 45,330 7.0%
1970 46,862 3.4%
1980 45,555 −2.8%
1990 46,567 2.2%
2000 47,829 2.7%
2010 49,808 4.1%
2019 (est.) 50,317 1.0%
Population sources: 1870–1920
1860–1870 1870 1880–1890
1890–1910 1870–1930
1930–1990 2000 2010

2010 Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 49,808 people, 15,180 households, and 10,884 families residing in the city. The population density was 8,270.1 per square mile (3,193.1/km2). There were 16,621 housing units at an average density of 2,759.8 per square mile (1,065.6/km2)*. The racial makeup of the city was 23.54% (11,724) White, 50.20% (25,006) Black or African American, 0.91% (455) Native American, 0.95% (474) Asian, 0.05% (26) Pacific Islander, 20.13% (10,024) from other races, and 4.21% (2,099) from two or more races. [[Hispanic (U.S. Census)|Hispanic or Latino of any race were 40.37% (20,105) of the population.

There were 15,180 households out of which 35.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.9% were married couples living together, 24.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.3% were non-families. 21.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.23 and the average family size was 3.60.

In the city, the population was spread out with 25.8% under the age of 18, 10.5% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 9.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33.3 years. For every 100 females there were 101.3 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and old there were 100.4 males.

The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $52,056 (with a margin of error of +/- $3,048) and the median family income was $58,942 (+/- $4,261). Males had a median income of $33,306 (+/- $4,132) versus $37,265 (+/- $3,034) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $23,767 (+/- $1,013). About 12.2% of families and 16.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.5% of those under age 18 and 16.0% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture

The Plainfield Symphony performs concerts at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church. The orchestra was founded in 1919, making it one of the oldest continuously operating orchestras in the United States.

In October 2010, former Plainfield music teacher Anwar Robinson and performer Yolanda Adams joined with community residents to try to be recognized by Guinness World Records for assembling the world's largest gospel chorus.

  • In the teaser trailer for the film, A Good Day to Die Hard, John McClane remarks "the 007 of Plainfield, New Jersey" thus confirming this as his fictional birthplace.

Plainfield Teacher's College hoax

Plainfield Teacher's College was a mythical institution created as a hoax by a duo of college football fans in 1941. The phony college's equally nonexistent football team had its scores carried by major newspapers including The New York Times before the hoax was discovered.

Economy

MG 0495-2
North Avenue Commercial District
Antique Castle (WT Orville House); Plainfield, NJ
Orville Taylor Waring House; Plainfield, NJ

Portions of Plainfield are part of an Urban Enterprise Zone. The city was selected in 1983 as one of the initial group of 10 zones chosen to participate in the program. In addition to other benefits to encourage employment within the Zone, shoppers can take advantage of a reduced 3.3125% sales tax rate (half of the 6+58% rate charged statewide) at eligible merchants. Established in January 1986, the city's Urban Enterprise Zone status expires in December 2023.

The UEZ program in Plainfield and four other original UEZ cities had been allowed to lapse as of January 1, 2017, after Governor Chris Christie, who called the program an "abject failure", vetoed a compromise bill that would have extended the status for two years. In May 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed a law that reinstated the program in these five cities and extended the expiration date in other zones.

Downtown Plainfield has two historic commercial districts: the North Avenue Historic District and the Civic Historic District. Both are on the Registry of Historic Places.

  • The North Avenue Historic District features the Downtown train station, post office, and Plainfield National Bank (now PNC Bank). The architecture of the district reflects original exterior 19th and early 20th century façade architecture.
  • The Civic Historic District features architecture reflective of the turn-of-the-century City Beautiful Movement, including the City Hall building, YMCA, City Hall Annex, and World War I monument on Watchung Avenue.

Events such as the Christmas Tree Lighting, the Queen City 5k, Fire Safety Fair, and Mayor's Wellness Walk take place in the Downtown each year.

Downtown Plainfield Alliance (DPA) is a "nonpolitical, nonprofit grassroots group that supports the improvement of Downtown Plainfield through beautification, volunteerism, economic development, marketing, community development, and activism."

Education

Public schools

The Plainfield Public School District serves students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. The district is one of 31 former Abbott districts statewide that were established pursuant to the decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Abbott v. Burke which are now referred to as "SDA Districts" based on the requirement for the state to cover all costs for school building and renovation projects in these districts under the supervision of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.

As of the 2018–19 school year, the district, comprised of 13 schools, had an enrollment of 9,363 students and 615.4 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 15.2:1. Schools in the district (with 2018–19 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are DeWitt D. Barlow Elementary School (373 students; in grades K-5), Cedarbrook Elementary School (699; K-8), Clinton Elementary School (380; K-5), Frederic W. Cook Elementary School (367; K-5), Emerson Elementary School (459; K-5), Evergreen Elementary School (531; K-5), Jefferson Elementary School (419; K-5), Charles H. Stillman Elementary School (311; K-5), Washington Community School (576; K-5), Hubbard Middle School (715; 6-8), Maxson Middle School (726; 6-8), Plainfield Academy for the Arts and Advanced Studies (396; 7-12) and Plainfield High School (741; 9-12).

The district's main high school was the 318th-ranked public high school in New Jersey out of 339 schools statewide in New Jersey Monthly magazine's September 2014 cover story on the state's "Top Public High Schools", using a new ranking methodology. The school had been ranked 280th in the state of 328 schools in 2012, after being ranked 307th in 2010 out of 322 schools listed. The school was removed in 2009 from the list of persistently dangerous schools in New Jersey.

Plainfield is also home to New Jersey's first high school focused on sustainability, the Barack Obama Green Charter High School.

Private schools

Established in 1984, Koinonia Academy moved to Plainfield in 1997, where it serves students in PreK through twelfth grades and operates under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark.

Higher education

Union County College, a community college headquartered in nearby Cranford, maintains a campus in downtown Plainfield.

Infrastructure

Transportation

Roads and highways

2021-09-20 08 57 54 View east along New Jersey State Route 28 (Plainfield Avenue) from the overpass for the rail line near Second Street in Plainfield, Union County, New Jersey
Route 28 through Plainfield

As of May 2010, the city had a total of 101.79 miles (163.82 km) of roadways, of which 87.58 miles (140.95 km) were maintained by the municipality, 14.21 miles (22.87 km) by Union County.

Plainfield is one of the few large suburban cities in central New Jersey to have no federal highway within it. The only major thoroughfare through Plainfield is New Jersey Route 28, connecting Somerville with Elizabeth and New Jersey Route 27. U.S. Route 22, a mecca for highway shopping and dining, is accessible from Plainfield through North Plainfield, Dunellen and Fanwood. In the early 1960s, Interstate highways were completed near, but not through Plainfield. Interstate 287 is accessible through South Plainfield and Piscataway, while Interstate 78 is accessible through Watchung / Warren Township and neighboring communities. The busiest connecting thoroughfares are Park Avenue (north-south), traversing from U.S. 22 to and into South Plainfield and Edison; Front Street (east-west), connecting Scotch Plains with Dunellen; South Avenue and 7th Street, both of which parallel Front Street, connecting Scotch Plains/Fanwood with Piscataway, South Plainfield and the Middlesex County border.

Public transportation

Plainfield, NJ ca. 1900
Plainfield Station, ca. 1910

Plainfield has two NJ Transit rail stations on the Raritan Valley Line, formerly the mainline of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The main Plainfield station is in the downtown and a second, smaller Netherwood station is in the Netherwood section, east of downtown and within a mile of the Fanwood border. A third station, located in the west end of town, was closed long ago. The New Brunswick train station is approximately 15 minutes away. The Central Railroad of New Jersey first offered service to Plainfield in 1839. At the height of popularity, the Plainfield "Jersey Central" train station, with its main station building constructed in 1902, was a hub for commuting to Newark and New York. (The Central Railroad of New Jersey terminal was in Jersey City, where ferries would take the rail passengers to New York City.) The station was located near the main post office and downtown stores. The station was serviced by the now defunct Railway Express postal carrier company.

NJ Transit provides bus service on the 113 and 114 to and from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan; the 59, 65 and 66 (Limited) to Newark; and local service on the 819 and 822 routes.

In years past, Plainfield was serviced by the Somerset Bus Company with service from Union County to Essex and New York City, the Public Service Bus Company with similar service and Plainfield Transit, providing local service.

Newark Liberty International Airport is approximately 30 minutes away. A proposed PATH train extension to Plainfield in the 1970s, with stops at the airport and at Elizabeth, was canceled in 1976.

Notable people

See also (related category): People from Plainfield, New Jersey

People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Plainfield include:

  • Ernest R. Ackerman (1863–1931), represented New Jersey's 5th congressional district from 1919–1931.
  • John Adams (1772–1863), educator who taught at the Plainfield Academy.
  • Katherine Langhorne Adams (1885–1977), painter and printmaker.
  • Erika Amato (born 1969), actress, singer and founder of Velvet Chain.
  • Donald C. Backer (1943–2010), radio astronomer and professor at University of California, Berkeley who was discoverer of millisecond pulsars and pioneer in pulsar-based searches for gravitational waves.
  • Rich Bagger (born 1960), former mayor of Westfield, New Jersey.
  • John Drayton Baker (1915–1942), American Naval aviator who was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during World War II.
  • Jeff Barry (born 1938), pop music songwriter, singer and record producer.
  • James Bell (born 1992), basketball player for Israeli team Hapoel Holon.
  • G. P. Mellick Belshaw (1928–2020), ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, serving from 1983 to 1994.
  • Charlie Bicknell (1928–2013), MLB pitcher who played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1948 and 1949.
  • Joe Black (1924–2002), professional baseball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds.
  • Judy Blume (born 1938), author.
  • Jon Bramnick (born 1953), member of the New Jersey General Assembly since 2003 who served on the Plainfield City Council from 1984 to 1991.
  • Anthony Branker (born 1958), jazz musician and educator.
  • Jack E. Bronston (born 1922). lawyer and politician who served in the New York Senate from 1959 to 1978.
  • Van Wyck Brooks (1886–1963), author.
  • Brock Brower (1931–2014), novelist, magazine journalist and TV writer.
  • Glenwood Brown (born 1967), former professional boxer in the welterweight (147lb) division.
  • Milt Campbell (1933–2012), 1956 Olympic decathlon gold medalist.
  • Pete Carmichael (born 1941), former football coach.
  • Leonte Carroo (born 1994), wide receiver who played in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins.
  • Linda S. Carter (born 1963), politician who has represented the 22nd Legislative District since 2018.
  • Jeremiah E. Cary (1803–1888), member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 21st congressional district.
  • W. Sterling Cary (1927–2021), president of the National Council of Churches from 1972 to 1975.
  • James Herbert Case Jr. (1906–1965), 8th president of Washington & Jefferson College.
  • Diane Chamberlain, author of adult fiction.
  • DJ Cheese, first world champion of the DMC World DJ Championships, in 1986.
  • John Chironna (1928–2010), head coach of the Rhode Island Rams football team in 1961 and 1962.
  • Rohit Chopra (born 1982), member of the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Earl Clark (born 1988), basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, formerly for the University of Louisville Cardinals.
  • George Clinton (born 1941), founder of Parliament-Funkadelic, childhood home.
  • Manny Collins (born 1984) American football cornerback.
  • Richard Guy Condon (1952–1995), anthropologist who specialized in the study of Inuit.
  • Archibald Cox (1912–2004), Watergate special prosecutor.
  • Kathy Cox (born 1964), former superintendent of public schools for the U.S. state of Georgia.
  • Dan Davis (born 1986), defensive lineman who played for the New York Sentinels of the United Football League.
  • Pat DiNizio (1955–2017), lead singer, songwriter, and founding member of the band The Smithereens.
  • William Archibald Dunning (1857–1922), historian best known for his work on the Reconstruction Era.
  • Bill Evans (1929–1980), jazz pianist.
  • Dionne Farris (born 1969), singer, songwriter, producer and actress.
  • Negley Farson (1890–1960), adventurer, journalist and author.
  • J. Michael Fay (born 1956), conservationist.
  • Rashan Gary (born 1997), defensive tackle for the Michigan Wolverines football team.
  • Glenn Goins (1954–1978), singer and guitarist for Parliament-Funkadelic.
  • Jan Groover (born 1943), photographer noted for her use of emerging color photography technologies.
  • Mark Haines (1946–2011), former host of the CNBC shows Squawk Box and Squawk on the Street.
  • David Hand (1900-1986), American and British-American animator at Out of the Inkwell studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Gaumont Film Company's British Animation Studio.
  • Bret Harte (1836–1902), author and poet.
  • Eddie Hazel (1950–1992), lead guitarist and founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic.
  • William Hazell (1908–1995), president of the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
  • Elise B. Heinz (1935–2014), lawyer and politician who was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1978 to 1981.
  • Richard X. Heyman, singer-songwriter and musician, who was a founding member of The Doughboys.
  • Jon Hilliman (born 1995; class of 2014), professional football player for the New York Giants.
  • Byron Hurt (born 1969), documentary filmmaker.
  • Dontae Johnson (born 1991), cornerback who has played in the National Football League for the San Francisco 49ers.
  • Marion Lee Johnson, African-American mathematician who was crucial to the landing of the Apollo 11 mission.
  • Tyrone Johnson (born 1992), professional basketball player.
  • Betty Jones (born 1930), operatic spinto soprano, who did not begin her career until the age of 41.
  • Donald Jones (born 1987), former professional wide receiver who played in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots.
  • Robyn Kenney (born 1979), field hockey player.
  • Phyllis Kirk (1927–2006), actress.
  • Florence LaRue (born 1944), singer and actress best known as an original member of the 5th Dimension.
  • Geoffrey Lewis (1935–2015), character actorwho appeared in more than 100 films and television shows, and was principally known for his film roles alongside Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford.
  • Peter Liske (born 1942), former professional football player.
  • Robert Lowry (1826–1899), Christian preacher and prolific hymn-writer/musician, whose works include "Shall We Gather At The River?"
  • Randolph Manning (1804–1864), Michigan Supreme Court justice.
  • Queena Mario (1896–1951), soprano opera singer, newspaper columnist, voice teacher and fiction writer.
  • Donald Martino (1931–2005), Pulitzer Prize-winning composer.
  • Burke Marshall (1922–2003), head of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the Civil Rights Era.
  • John Marshall (born 1963), former middle-distance track athlete who specialized in the 800 meters and competed at the 1984 Summer Olympics.
  • Jack Martin (1887–1980), slick-fielding, weak-hitting infielder in Major League Baseball, playing mainly at shortstop for three different teams between the 1912 and 1914 seasons.
  • James Edgar Martine (1850–1925), United States Senator from New Jersey.
  • Robert Mason (born 1942), author of Chickenhawk.
  • Bridget Mary McCormack (born 1966), lawyer, professor, and judge, serving on the Michigan Supreme Court since 2013, and as Chief Justice of Michigan since 2019.
  • Mary McCormack (born 1969), actress.
  • Will McCormack (born 1974), actor, executive producer, screenwriter and film director, best known for his 2020 short film If Anything Happens I Love You, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
  • Peter McDonough (1925–1998), politician who served in both the New Jersey General Assembly and New Jersey Senate.
  • Jim McGreevey (born 1957), former Governor of New Jersey.
  • Eugene Monroe (born 1987), professional football player for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Dudley Moore (1935–2002), actor who resided there at the time of his death.
  • Nonnie Moore (1922–2009), fashion editor at Mademoiselle, Harper's Bazaar and GQ. "
  • Cordell Mosson (1952–2013), vocalist and bassist for Parliament-Funkadelic.
  • James S. Negley (1826–1901), Civil War General, farmer, railroader, and U.S. Representative from the state of Pennsylvania.
  • Billy Bass Nelson (born 1951), bassist, founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic.
  • Gail R. O'Day (1954–2018), biblical scholar.
  • Andrew P. O'Rourke (1933–2013), former Westchester County Executive.
  • Montell Owens (born 1984), professional football player for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Irving Penn (1917–2009), photographer.
  • Elizabeth Price (born 1996), gymnast.
  • Kasim Reed (born 1969), birthplace, former Mayor of Atlanta.
  • Edward Regan (1930–2014), politician who served for 15 years as New York State Comptroller.
  • Emma Winner Rogers (1855–1922), writer and speaker on economic and social questions, and on the Arts and Crafts movement.
  • Erik Rosenmeier (born 1965), former NFL center who played for the Buffalo Bills in 1987.
  • Jane Rule (1931–2007), author of lesbian-themed novels and non-fiction.
  • William Nelson Runyon (1871–1931), Acting Governor of New Jersey from 1919 to 1920.
  • Justin Sears (born 1994), basketball player for the Gießen 46ers in Germany.
  • Robert Shapiro (born 1942), lawyer.
  • Garry Shider (1953–2010), musical director of P-Funk.
  • Henry Soles Jr. (1935–2018), minister who served as the senior chaplain for the Chicago Bulls for more than 30 years.
  • Percy Hamilton Stewart (1867–1951), mayor of Plainfield in 1912 and 1913, represented New Jersey's 5th congressional district from 1931 to 1933.
  • Bertram D. Tallamy (1901–1989), transportation official who served as Federal Highway Administrator and as superintendent of the New York State Department of Public Works.
  • Robert W. Tebbs (1875–1945), architectural photographer
  • Edward Herbert Thompson (1856–1935), archaeologist and diplomat.
  • Jeff Torborg (born 1941), former professional baseball player and manager.
  • Janeen Uzzell, Global Technology Executive and former Chief Operating Officer of the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • Daniel Tompkins Van Buren (1826–1890), Union Army officer who attained the rank of brigadier general by brevet in the American Civil War
  • Nancy Van de Vate (born 1930), composer.
  • Fred Van Eps (1878–1960), banjoist and early recording artist.
  • George Van Eps (1913–1998), swing and mainstream jazz guitarist.
  • Rich Vos (born 1957), comedian.
  • Helen Walulik (1929–2012), All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player.
  • David S. Ware (born 1949), jazz saxophonist.
  • Vic Washington (born 1946), former professional football player.
  • James Edward Maceo West (born 1941), co-inventor of the foil electret microphone and member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
  • Kevin White (born 1992), NFL wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints.
  • Harrison A. Williams (1919–2001), U.S. Senator who resigned following the Abscam scandal.
  • Jay Williams (born 1981), former professional basketball player with the Chicago Bulls.
  • Malinda Williams (born 1975), actress who played hair stylist Tracy "Bird" Van Adams on the Showtime television drama Soul Food.
  • Bernie Worrell (born 1944), keyboardist, founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic, childhood home.
  • Albert Capwell Wyckoff (1903–1953), ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and author of juvenile fiction, most notably the Mercer Boys series and Mystery Hunter series.
  • James A. Yorke (born 1941), chair of the Mathematics Department at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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Famous African-American Inventors:
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Jan Ernst Matzeliger
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Plainfield, New Jersey Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.