Story of one of Westchester’s 1st Black entrepreneurs uncovered

Past the Greenwood Union Cemetery sign is a swamp near a busy highway. There lies the African American Cemetery, a section segregated for Black residents who lived in Rye in the 19th century.

Nadia Galindo

Feb 14, 2023, 3:45 AM

Updated 459 days ago

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Past the Greenwood Union Cemetery sign is a swamp near a busy highway. There lies the African American Cemetery, a section segregated for Black residents who lived in Rye in the 19th century.
"In slavery, initially our families were separated from the time we hit the shores," said Ingraham Taylor, of the NAACP Port Chester/Rye chapter.
Taylor walked on hallowed ground at the cemetery on a cold February day and pointed out the African American residents were among the first in Westchester County to not only stay with their family in life, but also in death.
Among the headstones is the name William Voris.
The grave marker is weathered and some words are lost to time, but you don't have to read what it says to understand what his life and story means to Black Westchester residents like Taylor.
"I definitely honor him to be that brave and courageous," Taylor said.
Voris is one of Westchester's first Black entrepreneurs.
He ran several businesses and lived in a section of Rye that was mostly white in the mid-1800s, a time when slavery was still legal in half of the country.
His story is being painstakingly pieced together by a a team of volunteers and an archeologist who, over the summer, conducted a dig on the land in Rye that Voris once owned.
"It still warms my heart to know that that this gentleman lived here in Rye in the community and was an African American entrepreneur," said Taylor.
Like many African Americans, Taylor has missing links in her family tree lost to the shackles of slavery, which is why she says uncovering stories like Voris' empowers the Black community.
"It's important to know where you came from," she said.
It's especially touching because Taylor knew one of Voris's descendants, the late Doris Bailey Reavis.


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