The place we know today as São João de Meriti, cut by the rivers Sarapuí, Meriti and Pavuna, was known before as Freguesia de Meriti. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Meriti had many farms and chapels, being an important producer of corn, cassava, beans and sugar.
In 1833, the São João de Meriti village incorporated the Maxabomba village, now City of Nova Iguaçú. In 1947, São João de Meriti was elevated to the status of municipality.
Recently, the city has become an important cultural centre, being home to IPAHB and SESC. São João de Meriti is the hometown of the writer Lasana Lukata, volleyball player André Nascimento, actor Paulinho Gogó and the young André Mercury, nationally known for his performance on the Brazilian reality showÍdolos, when he sang his own song Casa da Colina (House on the Hill, in English), probably inspired by the homonym film. Meriti was also the hometown of João Cândido, the Black Admiral, one of the most prominent fighters in the defense of black people's rights.