Born in North Carolina in 1883, “Big Sam” became the first African American to serve as a police officer in New York City. After being caught stealing money from a safe as a teenager, many predicted that Battle would spend most of his life in prison. Determined to prove them wrong, he moved to New York where he found work as a porter. After studying for the New York City Police Department civil service exam, he was sworn in as an officer in 1911. Other African Americans were serving as police officers in Brooklyn, but Battle was the first to be hired after the merger that founded New York City. He was soon assigned to Harlem and endured discrimination from both white officers and civilians. Through determination and perseverance, Battle went on to become the city’s first black sergeant, first black lieutenant and first black parole commissioner. The corner of West 135th Street and Lenox avenue was renamed the Samuel J. Battle Plaza in his honor.