African-American cemetery in Westchester reveals long-buried stories

The secrets inside the long-neglected African American Cemetery in Rye are about to be opened up.

The cemetery is now in the process of being restored and mapped to finally identify and preserve the many lives that were buried here decades ago. Nearly 2 dozen are believed to be veterans.

"It gives us, the friends and spectators, a sense of history and a real longing for them to discover their own history," said David Thomas, who is the president and founder of the Friends of the African American Cemetery.

Ground penetrating radar will identify what is beneath the soil while taking high-resolution photos and drawing each headstone from different angles will assist with mapping the cemetery.

"Archival research has been able to identify one map that was made but the WPA to document where veterans lie in the cemetery but beyond that other societies haven’t been able to locate anything else so that means the mapping is really crucial here," said Brenna Pisanelli, the Senior Project Manager of Hertiage Consultants.

  "The burial of a person. The last act of a person has a special significance and the fact that African Americans could not be buried with the dignity given to white citizens is an unfortunate fact of history" said Rye Town Supervisor Gary Zuckerman.

The cemetery received a $35,000 grant from the National Park Service to complete this work. In addition to the work being done now, the town supervisor says the rest of the money will be used to update the burial roster and hopefully build new tombstones for the souls who never got one.