Ossining Picks First African American Historian

Joyce Sharrock Cole is Ossining’s new Village Historian

Ossining Mayor Victoria Gearity made history last week by appointing the first African American to serve as Village Historian.

Joyce Sharrock Cole, who currently serves on the village’s Historic Preservation Commission, will succeed Dana White. White has been Village Historian since January 2015 and is running unopposed for village trustee in the fall.

“I have long admired Joyce’s work with the Little Bertie County Genealogy Society. As I got to know her better, and collaborated with her on recent projects, I realized she was just the person we need to bring a fresh energy and perspective to local history, one that feels relevant and current,” White said during a small gathering July 21 at Duers Circle, an intersection located on the western side of the double arch bridge that recently received upgrades to improve pedestrian and driver safety.
“History is happening now, and Joyce is ready to document it. Her researching ability has helped many people learn about their past and affirm their identities, and I’m excited to see how she applies that talent to the village at large,” White added.

Cole earned a BS in Organizational Management from Mercy College and certification as a Genealogical Researcher from Boston University. She is a founding member and lead researcher for the Little Bertie County Genealogical Society, which facilitates the Ancestry Group for the Ossining Public Library. She also serves as the records management and records access officer for the Westchester County Department of Emergency Services.

Cole is producing a video of her presentation about Reverend Duers and creating a page on the village’s website dedicated to Ossining’s history. She said she is looking forward to leveraging her position as Village Historian to galvanize residents and young people to participate in local research efforts by discovering how they and their family have contributed to it.

“It is an honor to be appointed in a position that allows me to share my passion for research and sharing local history with my community,” Cole said. “This position will afford me the opportunity to highlight the untold histories and contributions of the early minorities of Ossining, as well as capturing, documenting and preserving the same for residents who immigrated/migrated more recently.”

“I look forward to collaborating with the community to capture and preserve our unique experiences while navigating through these unprecedented times and cultivating an environment of accessibility and openness to our historical records for review by our community and students,” she added.

Deputy Mayor Rika Levin, who is running unopposed for mayor to replace Gearity, who is not seeking reelection, shared her thoughts regarding Cole’s appointment.

“History lays the groundwork for strong, resilient communities. No place really becomes a community until it is wrapped in human memory: family stories, tribal traditions, civic commemorations. No place is a community until it has awareness of its history,” she said. “I am confident that Joyce will research and present our shared stories and experiences which will strengthen our understanding of one another and strengthen our community.”

Gearity expressed her gratitude for White’s service and welcomed Cole.

“Dana’s experience as a journalist inspired her storytelling approach to her service as Village Historian. It is rare that someone so treasured for her service has an opportunity to recommend a successor, and Ossining is fortunate that is the case here,” Gearity said. “Today’s appointment of Joyce Sharrock Cole reflects the enthusiastic support of every member of the Village Board.”

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