A tribute to Henrico’s African-American history
As one of the eight original shires of Virginia dating back centuries, Henrico County has had an illustrious history.
But sometimes overlooked are the numerous contributions made by Henrico’s African- American community. Not anymore.
To observe the county’s 400th anniversary, Black History Month and the achievements of Henrico residents, Henrico’s Department of Recreation and Parks will present “African-American History of Henrico County in Music and Stories” at the Henrico Theatre, 305 E. Nine Mile Road.
The program includes music, stories, and photographs presented by historical interpreters, choirs and performing groups, said Amy Perdue, the county’s Cultural Arts Coordinator.
Performers for this two day event include Dylan Pritchett as Gabriel, Vivian Lucas Graves as Miss Virginia Randolph, Tony Cosby arguing the McDaniel vs. Mehfoud case, Henrico County Mass Choir and Richmond’s quintessential oldies vocal group, Bak N Da Day, telling the Tommy Edwards story through song.
Among the many important figures spotlighted are:
Gabriel, born a slave at Brookfield, the plantation of Thomas Prosser, who learned to read and write and worked as a blacksmith. Gabriel was determined to be free and hoped to lead Richmond slaves in a revolt in 1800, but was captured and executed. Ultimately, this led to great fear of other rebellions and stricter regulation of slaves’ rights in Virginia.
“I’ll tell his story, the significance of place and time,” said Pritchett (pictured, at left), who will portray Gabriel. “I’ll tell the importance of keeping the yearning for freedom relevant.”
“Freedom has always been the purpose of any revolt, rebellion or citizen uprising. Our founding fathers rebelled against England's tyranny, average American citizens revolted, and enslaved African Americans followed the passion to gain freedom,” he said.
Virginia Randolph, the daughter of slaves, completed her formal education and became the first Jeanes Supervisor Industrial Teacher, providing formal in-service training for rural black teachers.
She opened the Mountain Road School for black children in 1892, where she included vocational education as well as traditional subjects.
Tommy Edwards, a singer and songwriter who graduated from Virginia Randolph High School in Glen Allen and hosted a live music show on WRNL twice a week. His songs were successfully recorded by popular singers Louis Jordan, Tony Bennett, Red Foley, and Tony Fontaine, and he was a frequent guest on television with appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and Your Hit Parade. Edwards had his biggest hit, “It’s All in the Game,” in 1958. Vocal group Bak N Da Day will perform this and other works from the era.
In addition to the performances, the Henrico Theatre will be home to an exhibit commemorating the achievements of many former residents.
The exhibit, ‘Remembering Our Legacy: African-American Trailblazer in Henrico County,’ was created by Henrico County staff and volunteer educators, artists and business leaders who comprise the 2011 African-American Sub-Committee.
“The exhibit features 12 individuals who lived and/or worked in Henrico who had a significant impact locally,” said Kim Sicola, Assistant Supervisor of Historic Preservation and Museum Services in Henrico’s Division of Recreation and Parks. “In some cases, their impact was felt across the state, nation and the world.
“The Legacy recipients are all deceased, but played a pivotal role in the development, growth and enduring success of African-American culture and heritage,” she said. “Henrico County’s African-American community has played an important role in the economic and political success of the County. Individuals, families, businesses, schools and churches have flourished over the decades and centuries despite the enormous obstacles of slavery and segregation.
“We sincerely hope the list of legacy recipients continues to grow with contributions from the citizens of Henrico and beyond.” Forms will be available to the public to nominate future legacy recipients.
The exhibit will remain on display through February and then will be available to travel to organizations or institutions, said Sicola.
The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.
The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.
A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”
The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.
The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.
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