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Friends of the African-American Cemetery In Rye Call On Community To Attend “Solidarity Saturday”

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RYE, NY – Friends of the African-American Cemetery, a newly formed 501c3 nonprofit organization formed to oversee the African American Cemetery adjacent to Greenwood Union Cemetery in Rye, is calling on the community to come together in solidarity to express outrage and sadness for the act of vandalism perpetrated on this historic site just before a Memorial Day ceremony. The event will take place on Saturday June 18, at 10:00 AM.Greenwood Union Cemetery is located at 215 North Street, in Rye.

The vandals went to the African-American Cemetery where they stripped the cloth portion of the American flags from the sticks supporting the flags. Over the stone wall, in the adjacent Greenwood Union Cemetery, the veterans’ flags were left untouched.

Thanks to American Legion Post 93, the missing flags were quickly replaced before the ceremony, but the empty sticks were left in place lest people forget the despicable act perpetrated at this hallowed place.

David Thomas holding one of the sticks that had the flag ripped off.
David Thomas holding one of the sticks that had the flag ripped off.

“This kind of act clearly aims to denigrate our community and the veterans buried in our landmark cemetery. It seems clear that someone was trying to send a heinous message to our community,” said David Thomas, executive director of the Friends of the African-American Cemetery. He went on to say, “There are some who want to strip people of their right as Americans.  Who gets to say who is an American?”  He also pointed out that this event will take place as African-Americans across the country commemorate and celebrate “Juneteenth,” or June 19th, 1865, when Blacks in Galveston, TX learned the war was over and the slaves had been freed.  This was two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  It is also the approximately one-year anniversary of the shooting of nine people in a Charleston, SC church.

Rye police collected forensic evidence from the site.  No new leads have been uncovered.

The Friends of the African-American Cemetery is determined to generate a community wide response that makes clear that these kinds of reprehensible acts will not be tolerated. The goal of the event is to honor the veterans and ancestors buried there as well as celebrate the wonderful work of healing that has been done at this cemetery in recent years.

Everyone is welcome to attend, especially residents of the Town of Rye, Rye City, and Mamaroneck, to celebrate the bonds that unite all Americans making clear to all that there is no place for hate in our community.

Look for ‘Solidarity Saturday’ Event on Facebook for updated information.

A Go Fund Me page has been established for anyone wishing to make a donation to the Friends of the African-American Cemetery. Proceeds will be used to improve access to the cemetery, conduct research, clean headstones and to essentially make the cemetery a place for learning and contemplation. You can also mail donations to Friends of the African-American Cemetery, 420 Elm Street, Port Chester, NY 10573.  Make checks payable to Friends of the African-American Cemetery.

For more information send an email to or call David Thomas at 914-886-5710.

The African-American Cemetery was established in Rye when its site was deeded to the town on June 27, 1860, by Underhill and Elizabeth Halsted “(to) be forever after kept and used for the purposes 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 therefore.” In the latter part of his life, Underhill Halsted became a fervent follower of the Methodist movement, which was profoundly opposed to slavery.  The cemetery includes a variety of professionally carved and dressed grave stones, with 35 indicating that a war veteran is interred. African American veterans of the Civil War through World War II are buried here.  In 1983 the African-American Cemetery was listed as a Westchester County Tercentennial Historic Site, and in 2003 the cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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