This particular area of study is one that is rather hard to expand on and really dive into. One reason is that there exists very little evidence and documents on why the slaves’ gravestone was placed in the northwest corner to begin with. One theory to why the slaves and free blacks were buried there is that since they were made to worship in the northwest corner, they should be buried there as well. The northwest corner in the church was at the very back corner of the church; so logically the northwest corner of the graveyard would also be the very back.
Question that should be recognized are: did all churches bury their blacks in the northwest corner? Does the northwest corner have significance that is yet to be discovered? Were they buried in the back corner, regardless of location on a map? To have any form of answers about these questions one must look at the surrounding towns and their churches to see if they are all connected by placing African in the northwest corner.
Surrounding towns such as Middletown, Farmington, Bloomington, and Torrington were all active UGRR towns and have houses that are known in the past to have hidden fleeing slaves. It is clear that most of the population in these surrounding towns were against slavery and very willing to help slaves escape, so there has to be more evidence on other grave sites as to why slaves were buried in specific locations.
This link I dug-up gives a little invoice about slaves buried in Middletown, however it does not divulge into any location or importance of where and why the Africans were placed where they were. (http://www.middlesexhistory.org/exhibits/africans.htm) This link only states that they were buried in the back of the cemetery, but doesn’t go into whether or not it was in the northwest corner, south corner, and so on. The link also goes on to give a brief history of the first Africans to have been forced over to America to work and states that slaves were most likely in Middletown as early as 1660. There are two gravestones of slaves that still stand from the 1700’s in Middletown’s Riverside Cemetery, and those are the gravestones of Sambo, a slave who was most likely born in Africa, and Fillis.
This link is a great find that can help our class expand on the meaning of gravestone locations in different cemeteries around Greater Suffield. It is a good idea to investigate more graveyards in Middletown and visit a historical site or two to try and find some primary source material on anything involving slaves living during the 1700’s and 1800’s. By going to a slave house or visiting a museum dedicated to the life of fleeing slaves, many opportunities and new possibilities could arise such as: discovering the reason to slaves’ grave locations, influential abolitionists, successful Africans, and even undiscovered safe houses.