Telling Our Stories

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From left: Dr. Cathy M. Jackson, Elvatrice Belsches, Brenda Dabney Nichols, Elizabeth Johnson Rice.  Photo by Tammie L. Smith.  Click here to view a video of the program.

 

Honoring Women Who Tell Our Stories

 Richmond, Virginia is fortunate to have numerous educators, historians, journalists and writers who routinely capture and record its fascinating legacy and traditions. On Saturday, March 31, 2018, the BND Institute of Media and Culture honored three Richmond-area educators whose thirst for knowledge about family, church, community, education and justice made history. Speakers and honorees Elvatrice Belsches, Brenda Dabney Nichols and Elizabeth Johnson Rice shared their most intriguing discoveries unearthed during years of research and curiosity. Cathy M. Jackson, PhD., a journalism professor and historian at Norfolk State University moderated the discussion.

The BND Institute of Media and Culture sincerely appreciates the support of its  patrons and sponsors: AfroEconomics with JB Bryan, Maxamus Insurance, John R. Rich, G.A. Carter and NBC12-Richmond. #women’shistorymonth.

 

About the speakers:

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,” which chronicles aspects of the African American experience. Mrs. 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, Mrs. 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,” Mrs. 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 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. Two years ago Mrs. Rice stood at the site of the former Thalhimers 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, a retired Henrico County Schools teacher and music educator, 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 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. 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 is the great granddaughter of Jesse Scott Pryor Sr. ,for whom the J.S. Pryor Sr. Memorial Cemetery is named and was purchased in 1939 by his descendants for family members’ burials. The QWP committee 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.

Photos from March 31, 2018 program.

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