In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask 5 Questions of Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. Croucher will lead an archaeological dig on the site of the Beman Triangle in Middletown on April 28-29. The public is welcome to attend. To view photos of the dig on April 14-15 click here.
Q: Professor Croucher, what exactly is the Beman Triangle and what is its significance to the history of Middletown?
A: The Beman Triangle is the land between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave., where homes have existed since the early 19th century. Local historian Liz Warner has shown that something very important happened here in the mid- to late-19th century. Leverett Beman, son of the first Pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church in Middletown, had the land divided into plots by a surveyor in 1847, and sold these plots off to other African-American families. This seems to be a deliberately planned community; a way that members of the AME Zion Church could become property owners (something that remains hard for many people today), and live as neighbors in a relatively prosperous community. The Beman Triangle is of national importance as very few African-Americans were able to go through a similar community-building process in the mid-nineteenth century, when they still lacked U.S. citizenship and slavery was still legal in many states. Although the houses might not look like much today, the site is an important testament to the lives of the nineteenth century Beman Triangle community.
Q: What do we know already about the AME Zion Church community?
A: There has been some wonderful historical research done on the Beman Triangle community by local historians Liz Warner and Janice Cunningham, as well as Wesleyan alumnus Jesse Nasta as part of his thesis. This work has shown us how active the residents were politically, in ways that are traceable through historical documents.