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Juneteenth: Community, Honor and Observance

Juneteenth officially became an American federal holiday two years ago, called “National Independence Day” by President Joseph Biden. Juneteenth, which is both a day of solemn reflection and remembrance and one of emancipation celebration, uplifts June 19, 1865: the date when the last enslaved people in the Confederacy were notified of their freedom following the Civil War. The Town of Rye, which is home to one of the area’s most important Black History sites, The Rye African-American Cemetery, once again honors the memory of our forebears with its third annual event of service and spoken word at the cemetery, on Saturday June 22, 2024, beginning at 10 am. 

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The Town of Rye will be honoring Juneteenth with a commemoration followed by a day of service beautifying the African American cemetery. This year’s Juneteenth commemoration will begin with oral histories of some of the remarkable people buried at the African American cemetery presented by high school students from Rye, Rye Neck and Blind Brook high school's. The ceremony, for which Mr. Joseph Holland will be the keynote, is an occasion to pay homage to the experiences of local Black emigrants and citizens over the course of the past two centuries. Joseph Holland whose most recent book, Make Your Own History, unleashes the mystery of the African American trailblazers who have paved the way through the pages of time.

Joseph Holland is an author, attorney, speaker entrepreneur, and ordained minister with outreach ministries to the homeless and other needy people, and an acclaimed community servant.  A graduate of Cornell University, where he earned a B.A. and M.A. and was an All-American football player, Mr. Holland also holds his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School.


The ceremony will be followed by the service project, led by Feng volunteers who will be treating the headstones with preservation techniques to clean off the lichen and dirt.


Saturday, June 22, 2024 (rain date June 23rd)


215 North Street, Town of Rye, NY
(in the Greenwood Union Cemetery)

It is highly recommended that participants wear outdoor work gloves and bring any of the following items with them to help with clean-up work:

  • Rakes
  • Shovels
  • Outdoor Broom
  • Outdoor Working Gloves

* It is important that you dress appropriately. Be sure to wear layers if necessary and closed toe shoes.

* Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

If you have a service form you would like filled out, please Email it to Councilperson Pam Jaffee at PJaffee@TownofRyeNY.com.

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Our town nestles in a valley in the background of which lie the picturesque hills and dales of Westchester County. Our Town of Rye borders on Long Island Sound bordering on Connecticut at the gateway of New England within convenient commuting distance from New York and in the metropolitan area. While we started with the Boston Post Road running close to the sound and constituting our main highway, a toll road along which passed the horse-drawn stages, modern parkways and paved highways over which pass speedy motor vehicles now link our Town to all the cities, towns and villages of this great country of ours.

We started as a small settlement on Manursing Island, then developed Poningo Neck, which now is the business section of the City of Rye, and the Saw Pit, which now is Port Chester on the Byram River, with paths leading to various parts of the town. The Post Road, King Street, and the Grace Church Street were among some of our earliest carriage paths. Water transportation and stagecoach were the sole links the early settlers had with the outside world. The young settlement known as Saw Pit, so named from the saw pits then in use, continued as such until it outgrew this homespun name and became Port Chester by incorporating as a village in 1868 signifying a sea port which remains to this day. 

Early life in the settlement was strenuous. Attacks by Indians and severe winters were a deterrent to these early settlers. Farming, fishing, logging, and trading were the principal occupations. At Saw Pit, logs were cut for use in shipbuilding operations. Our town had no improvements in those days and homes were simple and crude. The seed sown by these early settlers was nurtured and grew to the present day when we enjoy the modern conveniences of our times.

For more information about the Town of Rye and early settlement, see Chronicles of a Border Town by Charles Washington Baird.

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