By Chloe Morales, (Patch Staff)
Friends of the African American Cemetery, Inc., the organization that oversees the historic African-American Cemetery within Greenwood Union Cemetery in Rye, will hold a Memorial Day service there on Saturday, May 28 at 10 a.m. The cemetery is located at 215 N. St. 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 a-way the overgrowth.
Lead by David 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 501(c)(3) status.
With the formation and designation as a nonprofit entity, 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 non-profit are to upgrade and maintain site access, upgrade and maintain site furnishing, continue the remembrance ceremonies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day and transform the site into a cultural and educational resource for visitors and schools.
Further information is avail-able through the African-American Cemetery Facebook page or by contacting David Thomas via (914) 886-5710 or email@example.com.