BND Institute of Media and Culture Presents
Honoring Women Who Tell Our Stories
Come to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia on Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. to hear how three Richmond-area educators’ thirst for knowledge about family, church, community, education and justice made history.
Cathy M. Jackson, PhD., a journalism professor and historian at Norfolk State University, will moderate the discussion. A reception will follow. The program and reception are free and open to the public. Please register at EventBrite.
Elvatrice Belsches, a Richmond native, historian and researcher, is curator of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia’s new exhibit, “Yesterday’s Stories, Today’s Inspiration,” that chronicles aspects of the African American experience.
Ms. Belsches, a researcher for the film “Lincoln,” has documented the African-American experience for decades. She also authored the pictorial publication, “Black America Series: Richmond, Virginia” ( Arcadia Publishing). In 2017, Ms. Belsches was asked to bring to life the Black History Museum exhibit. The exhibit opened in February 2018.
“It covers themes as diverse as the early years, education, the early worship experience,” Ms. Belsches recently told Richmond’s NBC12. “(Museum visitors) are going to learn about the powerful roots of resistance and roots of success here. The exhibit has inspirational and incredible stories, told through photographs provided by repositories around the country, here in Virginia and by families themselves.”
Elizabeth Johnson Rice
Elizabeth Johnson Rice was among 34 Virginia Union University students who were arrested in 1960 after they staged a sit-in at Thalhimers department store for its refusal to serve African-Americans in its restaurants.
This was the first mass-arrest in the civil rights movement. Mrs. Rice went on to represent the university on NBC’s Today Show, which was then hosted by Dave Garroway and Florence Henderson.
Her brother, Ford T. Johnson, Jr., was arrested with her during the 1960 sit-ins. His 1962 Supreme Court case (Johnson v. Commonwealth of Virginia) resulted in the desegregation of all public federal facilities in the United States.
A lifelong educator, Mrs. Rice also was one of the first black teachers to integrate “Petersburg High School in Petersburg, Va, where she met racism head-on. Her life was often threatened in spite of her courage, she says.
Mrs. Rice has committed to using such “life-changing experiences” to motivate others, young and old, to become more involved in their communities, cities, schools, and workplaces to create a spirit of harmony and empowerment. Mrs. Rice has shared her experiences on two PBS documentaries: “Civil Rights Heroes of Virginia” and “Trailblazers of Virginia.”
Two years ago Mrs. Rice stood at the site of the former Thalhimer’s store for a more celebratory reason: The unveiling of a Virginia historical marker commemorating the VUU students’ heroic actions 58 years ago. The marker, erected by the state Department of Historic Resources, is on East Broad Street between 7th and 8th streets, where Thalhimers once stood. The store closed in 1992 and was demolished in 2004.
During the installation ceremony Mrs. Rice said: “Just the fact we’re being remembered feels good. This historical marker will be here when we’re all gone.
Brenda Dabney Nichols
Brenda Dabney Nichols, a retired Henrico County Schools teacher, is the author of “African-Americans of Henrico County: 1863-1993” (2010). The book explores the origin and history of numerous African-American communities during and after slavery. Churches, civic organizations and schools that served Henrico’s black population are frequently cited in Mrs. Dabney’s book.
Several years ago, Mrs. Nichols and members of Henrico County’s Quioccasin and Westwood Baptist churches formed a committee to maintain and improve the status of three Henrico County cemeteries: Quioccasin, Westwood and Pryor (QWP) memorial
cemeteries. Many well-known Richmonders are buried in the western Henrico County cemeteries, including Tommy Edwards, the late R&B vocalist best known for his hit song, “It’s All in the Game.” The cemeteries also are final resting places for the late state Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III, his brother, the late Richmond attorney Leonard Lambert and the late Rev. Paul Nichols, Mrs. Dabney’s husband.
Mrs. Nichols said Westwood and Quioccasin churches have shared cemeteries since the 1920s. The churches once were in close proximity to one another, she said, before Westwood moved to its current location on Glenburnie Road. The J.S. Pryor Sr. Memorial Cemetery was purchased in 1939 by his descendants for family members’ burials. Mrs. Nichols is the great granddaughter of Jesse Pryor.
The QWP committee then worked with the Henrico Department of Recreation and Parks and its Historic Preservation Advisory Committee to purchase and establish a historical marker for the cemeteries. The marker was placed on a median strip on Quioccasin Road in August 2016.
“We wanted something positive for the cemeteries,” Mrs. Nichols says. “We wanted to make sure their aesthetic appearance is maintained and we have made strides to (ensure) that.”