Montpelier Station in Orange County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
The African American Cemetery
To lay this body down.
I lay in the grave and stretch out my arms;
I lay this body down."
-African American spiritual from the era of slavery, as recorded in James Weldon Johnson, the Book of American Negro Poetry
The African American Cemetery is the final resting place for some of Montpelier's enslaved community. At funerals, people could share religious values that had their origins in various African traditions. Most often, these occasions aroused mixed emotions. They signaled at once an end and a transformation of life. Burials may have been accomplished by processions through the graveyard. Bearers of the coffin would have lowered it into a grave dug on an axis, so that the eyes of the deceased faced the sunrise in the east. The living then offered music, dancing, and religious preaching to help transport the spirit "home," which for many, meant back to the African homeland. Feasting may have concluded the day and its bittersweet celebration of ultimate freedom.
Erected by Montpelier Foundation. (Marker Number 19.)
Location. 38° 13.16′ N, 78° 10.366′ W. Marker is in Montpelier Station, Virginia, in Orange County. Marker Click for map. Located in the African American Slave in the Montpelier Estate. Marker is in this post office area: Montpelier Station VA 22957, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Slave Cemetery (a few steps from this marker); Mount Pleasant c. 1750s (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Madison Family Cemetery (about 800 feet away); The Quarters (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Road (approx. 0.2 miles away); Madison Farm Complex (approx. ¼ mile away); Homes for Enslaved Families (approx. ¼ mile away); The Backyard (approx. ¼ mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Montpelier Station.
More about this marker. On the right is an illustration courtesy of the Historic New Orleans Collection, Accession No. 1960.46, captioned In a Plantation Burial, John Antrobus portrays one of the diverse traditions practiced by African Americans in the South.
Also see . . . Slave Cemetery. Page from the Montpelier web site. (Submitted on November 5, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
Categories. • African Americans • Cemeteries & Burial Sites •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 759 times since then. Photos: 1. submitted on , by Michael C. Wilcox of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 2, 3. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. 4. submitted on , by Michael C. Wilcox of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 5. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page was last revised on November 26, 2016.