African-American Cemetery In Rye To Hold Memorial Day Ceremony 5-28-16

Rye resident Donna Seward looks at the tombstones in the African-American cemetery adjacent to the Greenwood Union Cemetery, where she has members of her family; the Brown family, buried, after a Memorial Day ceremony, May 28, 2011 in Rye. It is believed that 119 African-Americans are buried at the cemetery, including 22 veterans. In 2010 the Town of Rye formed an Ad Hoc Committee, made up of representatives from the town, the NAACP, Building Community Bridges and the American Legion Post #93, to help restore the town-owned cemetery. ( Tania Savayan / The Journal News )

unnamedPort Chester, NY – Friends of the African American Cemetery, Inc., the organization that oversees the historic African American cemetery within Greenwood Union Cemetery in Rye, NY, will hold a Memorial Day service there on Saturday, May 28 at 10:00 am. The cemetery is located at 215 North Street in Rye. The one acre parcel was donated by the Halsted family 150 years ago with the condition that it “shall forever hereafter kept, held and used for the purpose of a cemetery or burial place for the colored inhabitants of the said Town of Rye, and its vicinity free and clear of any charge therefor…”

Of the 119 known persons buried at the cemetery, 22 are veterans of the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I and World War II. The last burial was held in 1964.

Over the years the importance of this special cemetery in the history of the community and nation has been recognized as it is listed on the National, New York State and Westchester County Registers of Historic Places. After years of neglect the cemetery had run into disrepair. Some of the stones had toppled over while others were simply worn away. In 2010, the Town of Rye, Port Chester/Rye branch of the NAACP, Building Community Bridges (BCB), and the American Legion Post #93, formed an ad hoc committee to help raise awareness of the cemetery and restore the stones and clean away the overgrowth.

Lead by Mr. Thomas since 2010, ceremonies have been held on Memorial Day and Veterans Day at the site. At each of these events a new face appears, a new story is shared or a new connection is made to someone buried there. One of the new stories this year is that with the help of County Legislator David Gelfarb, the cemetery has achieved 501c3 status.

With the formation and designation as a nonprofit entity, Mr. Thomas seeks to continue efforts to preserve, conserve, rehabilitate and transform the African American Cemetery into a place of historical remembrance, reflection and education for the public.

The primary goals of the nonprofit are to:
· Upgrade and maintain site access
· Upgrade and maintain site furnishing
· Continue the remembrance ceremonies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day
· Transform the site into a cultural and educational resource for visitors and schools.

For more information or to join in the efforts of or contribute to the Friends of the African American Cemetery please contact David Thomas at 914-886-5710 or email Visit and “Like” their Facebook page.