PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – Port Chester resident David Thomas has announced the formation of the Friends of the African-American Cemetery Inc., a registered New York state nonprofit organization.
The cemetery is within the Greenwood Union Cemetery, 215 North St., Rye. The 1-acre parcel was donated by the Halsted family 150 years ago with the condition 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 people 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 in 1964. Throughout 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 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.
Led by 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.
Contributions made by both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have led to a greater understanding of the historical and cultural importance of the site. The project and these ceremonies received support from elected officials, and cultural and civic organizations.
For more information or to join in the efforts of or contribute to the Friends of the African American Cemetery, contact Thomas at 914-886-5710 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.