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Headstone of New Haven abolitionist is restored as marker along CT Freedom Trail

Jeniece Roman
/
WSHU

The descendants of Thaddeus and Mary Newton attended the ceremony Friday for the unveiling of a restored headstone.

The abolitionist Thaddeus Newton was an enslaved man from North Carolina. Newton and his wife Mary fled to New York in 1859 where they fought for his freedom. She was free and worked with abolitionists to raise money to free Thaddeus.

Angela Leavy, a descendant of Thaddeus and Mary, receives the flag.
Jeniece Roman
/
WSHU
Angela Leavy, a descendant of Thaddeus and Mary, receives the flag.

They eventually made a home in New Haven, where they raised their family. While in New Haven, they continued to fight for others' freedoms and became an important part of the community. The descendants of the family joined members of Bethel AME Church and other members of the New Haven community visited the gravesite Evergreen Cemetery to honor the family.

Angela Leavy, a descendant of Thaddeus and Mary, traveled from Florida to attend the ceremony. Leavy said she was surprised to learn of her family’s history and honored to see many in attendance.

“I’m still taking it all in. It’s been a blessing,” Leavy said. “The story is something I can share with my children and grandchildren. I have a history to pass on.”

The Newtowns raised three sons who served in the military. Alexander and William served in the Civil War with the 29th Connecticut Colored Regiment. Their son, Stephen, also fought in the 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment. in the Civil War and died while fighting in the assault on Fort Wagner.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker makes a speech during the ceremony.
Jeniece Roman
/
WSHU
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker makes a speech during the ceremony.

Kelly Mero is with the 29th Connecticut Colored Regiment descendants group. She spoke about the contribution of the Newton family. She praised the family for their fortitude to fight for freedom, years before the Civil War even started.

“After learning of the Newton family story and their legacy, if you will, we are now motivated to continue their work towards modern freedom for people of color.”

Mayor Justin Elicker spoke about the importance of sharing the stories of former New Haven residents. He said revisiting history is important to the community because of its symbolism.

“First is sharing the history of our residents and the fact that there are so many untold heroes in our community. Second is the history of New Haven being a place, a beacon of hope, as a welcoming place,” Elicker said.

The restoration was organized by the Alex Breanne Corporation, a non-profit organization that conducted the research, found the descendants, and paid for the headstone repair and installation. The non-profit organization conducts research and presentations of stories from an African American perspective. These lesser-known stories represent the life experience of the American enslaved.

Jeniece Roman
/
WSHU

A military headstone for their son, Stephen, was also unveiled at the gravesite. The grave site was officially designated as a marker along the Connecticut Freedom Trail. The family was presented with a plaque and folded burial American flag. There was also a three-volley salute, and “Taps" was played.

Jeniece Roman is a reporter with WSHU, who is interested in writing about Indigenous communities in southern New England and Long Island, New York.