Northwest Corner no coincidence?

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. (  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.


About 14ross

I am currently a studious senior in high school aiming to become a better english student through project based learning.
This entry was posted in American Studies, HOT Logs Dec. 2013, Local History, Project Based Learning, Slavery, Underground Railroad. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Northwest Corner no coincidence?

  1. ahglennon says:

    Great work Ross. The main question that comes to mind is if you came across any images of former slave graves that exist today? Also, did you have any specific locations that can help us in the goal to creating a commemorative stone for those buried in Suffield? On a tedious note I would specify your use of “UGRR” before using it in your article to avoid any confusion for readers unfamiliar with the classes terminology and abbreviations.

  2. suffieldkid says:

    I really like how this post is specific about northwest sections of religious places, yet still questions what the significance of it is. I wonder if there is a way to tell how far into history segregation and significance of the northwest corner continued. I think this idea is great, but when we suggest this to the graveyard committee we should be a little more formal.

  3. 14dlw says:

    I like what you did here Ross. I enjoyed your questioning of the significance the northwest sections of religious places. Would you say we have a potential field trip here? Overall a great idea, but the piece could be worked on some more and prepared for a presentation for the graveyard committee.

  4. 14bsd says:

    This post is very informative and expands on what we had talked about in class previously, giving greater detail on why and how things were the way that they were. An interesting topic certainly and I think it was a great idea to ask and answer some questions already in the piece. With knowing a lot about the gravestones in the Northwest corner, what suggestions would you make when we present to the gravestone to the graveyard committee?

  5. Jack Frank says:

    I really liked how you proposed specific question that should be raised. However, I would have liked to see a more direct form of answering the question rather than simply just diving into the link that you posted. Have you come across a lot of information that suggests other graveyards buried their slaves in this same manner?

  6. Ben N says:

    Ross, I really liked how you questioned the significance of the Northwest Corner. Will you continue to research sources similar to the one you write on? Is there any information that would be helpful to us as we begin the process of installing a commemorative stone in the Suffield cemetery?

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