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The original item was published from 2/23/2021 12:18:55 AM to 3/14/2021 12:00:00 AM.

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News & Town Board Reports (gblist)

Posted on: February 23, 2021

[ARCHIVED] Slavery existed in Irvington and in Greenburgh

and Irvington residents and leaders are creating a memorial honoring the work of enslaved Africans contributing to the foundation of Irvington. The committee is looking for grants/ funding. Your ideas welcome.

Did you know that enslaved Africans contributed to the foundation of Irvington?  The Irvington School district has agreed to provide a place for a sculpture and a plaque on Main Street School property to honor the legacy enslaved Africans who lived and labored in Irvington.  Yonkers artist Vinnie Bagwell will create the bas relief.  

I recently interviewed Irvington resident Cathy Sears who along with Sarah Cox researched the history of local enslaved Africans, and  wrote an article for the Winter 2019 issue of the Irvington historical Society, The Roost. They then formed the Commemorating Enslaved Africans Committee and Project.

In August the Village Board of Trustees approved the group's proposal for a memorial garden with benches and a plaque to be located on So. Buckhout Street town property overlooking Barney Brook and a former enslaved burial ground. 

Two clarifications in the interview: (1) Enslaved Africans and their descendants helped build, sustain and protect the farms of most founding families in the 18th and 19th century. (2) The actual size of the enslaved burial ground is unknown. 

THIS IS THE INTERVIEW WITH CATHY SEARS (the portion dealing with slavery starts close to 10 minutes after the show began)


C  O  M  M  E  M  O  R  A  T  E

Commemorating Enslaved Africans 

in Irvington Committee

Sarah Cox

February 22, 2021

Dear Town Supervisor Feiner,

Paul, I want to thank you for your support of our project here in Irvington. You have been very generous with your time to interview my colleague, Cathy Sears on two occasions. I wanted to share with you a letter that I’ve sent to MaryJane Shimsky, George Latimer, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Thomas Abinanti and Mondaire Jones. We’re trying to look under every rock for funding!

The Commemorating Enslaved Africans Committee was founded by the Irvington Activists three years ago to research and tell the story of the enslaved Africans who lived and labored on the colonial and federal era tenant farms that were located within the present-day boundaries of Irvington. Our mission is to foster civic engagement to bring to light the history and to honor the humanity, resilience, and contributions of these enslaved people. 

This winter, the Irvington school district gave enthusiastic approval to our proposal for art by Vinnie Bagwell and an accompanying educational plaque to be located on school property on Main Street. The proposal:

Last summer, the village trustees authorized the use of a strip of village property near the river to create a memorial garden at the enslaved African burial ground. 

Together with the PTSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee, we will plan unveiling and wreath laying ceremonies, train and organize student-led tours and foster myriad age-appropriate educational programs for both sites in Irvington. 

This partnership between our committee and the school district will facilitate multicultural literacy about the history of slavery for students and the wider Irvington community. Our overall objective is to promote public awareness and spur our community to dismantle the economic and social legacies of enslavement. 

We are writing to ask if you are aware of funds available for the commission and installation of public art by Vinnie Bagwell and/or ongoing civic engagement and educational programming by our committee. We are also writing proposals for grants from New York State Council on the Arts and ArtsWestchester. 

We will keep you informed as the project progresses. We look forward to hearing from you with any questions you might have.

Thank you,

Sarah Cox

chair, Commemorating Enslaved Africans Committee

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