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Panelists, moderators, performers, in alphabetical order:

Ram Bhagat, Ed.D. - Panelist
Educator, arts innovator, and peacemaker. Dr. Bhagat serves as Manager for School Culture and Climate Strategy for Richmond Public Schools. His role is to envision and design trauma-responsive restorative justice practices for the school division. He is currently developing culturally responsive yoga and mindfulness programs in 11 pilot schools, with a cadre of community partners who believe all teachers and students need equitable and just learning environments to achieve academic, social, and emotional transformation. In the early 90s, Ram co-founded Drums No Guns, a world percussion ensemble committed to Healing Community with Rhythm. DNG has evolved into a national non-profit organization, Drums No Guns Foundation, dedicated to working with youth traumatized by gun violence. The DNG foundation employs the artfulness of yoga, drumming, dance, drama, peacemaking circles, and strategies for trauma awareness and resilience, in order to restore hearts and minds.

Michael L. Blakey, Ph.D. - Moderator
Michael L. Blakey is National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Africana Studies, Anthropology, and American Studies, and Founding Director of the Institute for Historical Biology at the College of William & Mary. Dr. Blakey was a Key Advisor of the award-winning Race Exhibition of the American Anthropological Association, where he held several offices including president of the Association of Black Anthropologists (1987-1989). He is a member of the Scholarly Advisory Committee of the National Museum of African American History and Culture of the Smithsonian Institution, where he previously held the position of Research Associate in Physical Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History (1985-1994). He was the Scientific Director of New York City’s colonial African Burial Ground Project (1992-2004). The site became a National Monument in 2007. Blakey held professorships at Spelman College, Columbia, Brown, La Sapienza, and Howard University, where he founded the W. Montague Cobb Biological Anthropology Laboratory. He was director or co-director of the Remembering Slavery, Resistance, and Freedom Project sponsored by the Virginia General Assembly from 2010-2015. He currently served on the editorial board of American Anthropologist (2012-2016). He has over 70 publications. His most recent book (2009) is The Skeletal Biology of the New York African Burial Ground (with Lesley Rankin-Hill). His recent articles, in English and French, cover bioarchaeology and publicly engaged archaeology. He is currently working on a monograph on scientific racism and society. His interests are in the epistemology of public engagement, bioarchaeology of the African diaspora, African diasporic intellectual history, and white supremacy. He has won numerous awards including the Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America, SANA, and the honorary Doctor of Science, York College, CUNY.  He earned the B.A., Howard University, M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and completed courses at Oxford and London Universities.

Elvatrice Belsches, M.A. - Panelist
Ms. Belsches is a Richmond-area public historian, researcher, author and filmmaker who specializes in chronicling the African American experience in history. She has authored biographical entries for both the African American National Biography (Oxford University Press) and the Encyclopedia Virginia, and has several publications and documentaries in development. Belsches was the writer and researcher for the documentary, The Life and Times of Elizabeth Keckly, and also served as an in-studio researcher for Steven Spielberg's motion picture Lincoln.

Pamela Bingham, M.A. - Panelist
A descendant of Gabriel and Nan of Henrico County, Ms. Pamela R. Bingham, Bingham Consulting Services, is a family historian/environmental engineer/leader/activist who embraces “the road less traveled” literally.  She commutes between Petersburg, VA and Silver Spring, MD to provide comprehensive environmental management and develop equitable environmental/climate policy, emergency management and health policy for diverse and marginalized communities. As a daughter of Jackson, MS with Virginia ancestral roots, her parents Drs. Haskell and Robbie Barnes Bingham instilled awareness of African American history early. She is the Family Historian of the National Binghams (of African Descent) Family Association.  Former VSU Provost Dr. Haskell S. Bingham conducted family research spanning over 60+years throughout the Deep South which identified thousands of family members including ancestor Gabriel of Gabriel's Rebellion of Virginia 1800. The family tells Gabriel’s Rebellion through written programs and a family play. Pamela is a member of the Dr. C. DeLores Tucker Chapter of  ASALH (Association for the Study of African American Life and History). She has been Family Reunion Chair and conducts workshops on reunion planning and oral history. She believes “ A people without the knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots” and the Bingham Family book co-authored by her late father will be available in 2020. Bingham earned a B.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering, University of Florida, and made history in her election as the only Black female (to date) Student Body President at the University of Florida. She has a Graduate Certificate in Graduate Studies from the Johns Hopkins University Leadership Development Program, in Environmental Studies. She has been included in African American Students at the University of Florida (Dr. Betty Stewart Dowdell) and  Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Through the Years 1908-1988 (Marjorie H. Parker).

Ellen Chapman, Ph.D. - Presenter
Ellen is an archaeologist with over ten years of experience in cultural resource management and academic archaeology. At Cultural Heritage Partners, Ellen helps support clients on a variety of government affairs, cultural resources, and historic preservation matters. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a BA in Archaeology, from Durham University with a MSc in Paleopathology, and she graduated in 2018 with a PhD in Anthropology from the College of William & Mary. Ellen has conducted archaeological research in Missouri, California, Nevada, Virginia, Alabama, the United Kingdom, India, and Bermuda. In 2014, Ellen co-founded RVA Archaeology, a Richmond-based community organization dedicated to increasing the accessibility and relevance of the city’s archaeology, supporting public input in archaeological research, and advocating for the city’s heritage. Ellen is a member of the Society for Historical Archaeology, the Council for Northeast Historical Archaeologists, and the Council of Virginia Archaeologists, where she serves as a member of the Legislative Affairs committee.

Christy Coleman, M.A. - Moderator
CEO of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, VA, which explores the story of the Civil War from multiple perspectives--Union, Confederate, African American, soldier, and civilian. She began her career at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation as a living history interpreter and worked her way up to become director of African-American interpretations and presentations. In 1999, she left Williamsburg and headed to Detroit to become president and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, where she was instrumental in the creation of the 22,000 square foot exhibit “And Still We Rise.” Coleman seeks to ensure the conversations surrounding the Civil War are moving forward and is one of the few black women to head a Civil War museum. Coleman was co-chair of the Monument Avenue Commission in 2018.

Valerie Davis - Performer
A gifted storyteller, playwright, and producer, Valerie uses her talents to teach values and promote awareness or lesser-known historical events and people. Valerie has written and starred in several one-woman shows focusing on domestic violence and historical women of courage such as Martha Ann Fields, Coretta Scott King, and Nanny, wife of Gabriel who led the attempted slave rebellion in Richmond in 1800. Valerie also holds workshops to teach the art of storytelling. Her work is dedicated to her Mother Margaret A. Davis a.k.a. Queen Margaret.

Ana Edwards, B.A. - Presenter
Ana chairs the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, founded in 2004 by the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality to promote the reclamation and proper memorialization of Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom, once the epicenter of the U.S. domestic slave trade. A native of Los Angeles, Edwards has made her home in Richmond since 1988. She holds a BA in Visual Arts from California State Polytechnic University at Pomona and is now pursuing a master’s degree in history at Virginia Commonwealth University. She was a Mellon Foundation fellow at the American Civil War Museum, serves as vice president of the Virginia Friends of Mali and is a member of Richmond’s Sister Cities and Public Art commissions. She was a member of the Planning Committee for Virginia Commonwealth University's East Marshall Street Well Project and is a consulting historian on preservation efforts for the Second African Burial Ground and Virginia State Penitentiary cemetery. Recognitions include 7th District Community Service Award (2007); Richmond Peace Education Center Peacemaker of the Year (2013); and Valentine History Maker for Improving Social Justice (2015). Edwards frequently lectures and leads tours on the role played by Shockoe Bottom in the U.S. domestic slave trade, Gabriel’s Rebellion, and eighteenth-century Richmond and U.S. slavery.

Douglas R. Egerton, Ph.D. - Panelist (via ZOOM)
Douglas R. Egerton has taught history at Le Moyne College since 1987; he has also held visiting appointments at Colgate University, Cornell University, and the University College of Dublin. He is the author of eight books, including the Lincoln Prize co-winner, Thunder At the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments That Redeemed America (2016), Heirs of an Honored Name: The Decline of the Adams Family and the Rise of Modern America (2019), He Shall Go Out Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey (1999), The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America’s Most Progressive Era (2014), Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought on the Civil War (2010), Gabriel’s Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802 (1993), and Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America (2009). His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the Nation, and the Boston Globe. He lives near Syracuse, New York, with his wife, historian Leigh Fought.

Carmen Foster, Ed.D. - Moderator
Dr. Carmen F. Foster is a native Richmonder with extensive professional experience in public administration, higher education administration, museum administration, community service, and outreach. Dr. Foster couples her lens as an educational historian with expertise in organizational, leadership, and team development to guide, facilitate, and coach executives and next-generation leaders. Dr. Foster earned her doctorate in education from the University of Virginia. She also has earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from VCU, a master’s degree in communication from Clarion University and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University. Through her consulting practice, Forward and Wise, she weaves her expertise as a historian, facilitator, and executive coach to guide those who seek authenticity, agility, and courage to lead with purpose in the midst of change.

Raymond Pierre Hylton, Ph.D. - Panelist
Dr. Raymond Pierre Hylton received his bachelor's degree in History at Virginia Commonwealth University; and his master's and doctorate from University College Dublin, Ireland. He is Full Professor at Virginia Union University, having taught there full time since 1991, and is a former Dean and Department Chair. He is the author of: Ireland's Huguenots and their Refuge (Sussex Academic Press); Virginia Union University (Arcadia Publishing Campus History Series); and The Richmond 34 and the Civil Rights Movement (also by Arcadia Publishing - Co-Authored with Dr. Kimberly A. Matthews - to come out in February 2020).

Lawana Holland-Moore, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Lawana Holland-Moore is the Program Assistant for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s $25 million African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Lawana holds a BA with a double major in History and Journalism from The George Washington University and a MA in Historic Preservation from Goucher College, where she wrote her thesis on “Ethnic Minority Heritage Values and U.S. Historic Preservation Significance Policy.” Lawana was a Researcher for the White House Historical Association and served on the National Trust’s Diversity and Inclusion Group representing Decatur House. Lawana loves to talk to the public about African American history, preservation, and underrepresented cultural groups.

Gregg Kimball, Ph.D., Library of Virginia
Dr. Gregg D. Kimball is Director of Public Services and Outreach at the Library of Virginia, where he is responsible for research services, programming, and education. He holds a Ph.D. degree in history from the University of Virginia and an M.L.S. degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Kimball is the author of American City, Southern Place: A Cultural History of Antebellum Richmond (University of Georgia Press, 2000), and has published numerous articles, reviews, and essays on African-American history, traditional music, public history, and the American south. He was a curator and historian at Richmond’s city museum, the Valentine, for almost ten years. He served as the chief historian during the Valentine’s restoration and interpretation of the Tredegar Iron Works, a National Historic Landmark, which is now the headquarters for the Richmond National Battlefield Park, National Park Service, and the site of the American Civil War Museum. Dr. Kimball served as co-chair of the City of Richmond’s Monument Avenue Commission in 2017-2018. He serves on the program committee of the Richmond Folk Festival and has presented or performed at the National Folk Festival, the Lowell Folk Festival, and the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Dr. Kimball is a veteran of the United States Army and lives in New Kent County, Virginia.

Elizabeth Kostelny, Director, Preservation Virginia - Panelist
Since 1990, Elizabeth Stanton Kostelny has been a member of the staff team at Preservation Virginia, the nation’s first statewide nonprofit historic preservation organization founded in 1889. She began as its Curator of Collections, and since 2001, has served as the organization’s Chief Executive Officer. Under Ms. Kostelny’s leadership, Preservation Virginia is expanding its programs and advocacy efforts to ensure historic places across the Commonwealth are preserved and utilized. By sharing expertise gained from more than one hundred and thirty years, Preservation Virginia programs are reaching a growing community beyond the traditional historic preservation audience to support historic preservation as a tools for community and economic benefits.

Lauranett L. Lee, Ph.D. - Panelist
Visiting Lecturer, Jepson School of Leadership Studies and Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Professional and Continuing Studies, Liberal Arts, Dr. Lee is a public historian specializing in teaching, advocating, and collaborating with diverse community and academic audiences. She was the founding curator of African-American history at the Virginia Historical Society (2001-2016). In 2011, she worked with a team of colleagues at VHS to launch a genealogical tool called Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names. In 2008, she published Making the American Dream Work: A Cultural History of African Americans in Hopewell, Virginia, an oral history project commissioned by the Hopewell City Council. In 2017, she served on Mayor Levar Stoney's Monument Avenue Commission, tasked with making recommendations on the future of the Confederate monuments lining one of the city's most famous boulevards.

Lenora McQueen, Researcher - Panelist
San Antonio-based artist/instructor, genealogist, and descendant of a 19th-century woman buried in Richmond's Second African Burial Ground before the American Civil War. About the image: "I was first introduced to quilling at Highlands the home of President James Monroe in front of the slave quarters.  My second great-granduncle lived for many years in those quarters with his family. That was during the time of John Massey's ownership of the property (after the Civil War).  My uncle was his groomsmen. Quilling was a craft known to have been practiced by the slaves there."

Nickey McMullen - Performer
Employing a very visual performance style, she uses her powerful voice combined with passionate expression to infuse love, inspire, uplift, comfort, admonish and instruct. Her inspirational messages translate clearly through her energetic stage presence in a way that invites and even compels the audience to enter her world while reflecting upon their own. Nickey’s charge is to change lives one song at a time. And through her voice, she is doing just that.

John Moeser, Ph.D. - Panelist
Now Emeritus Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at Virginia Commonwealth University, Dr. Moeser taught for 34 years. During his last year at VCU, he was invited to become Senior Fellow at the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond. He completed research that resulted in a data-centered documentation of poverty in RIchmond and was the basis of an exhibition and documentary film called "Unpacking the Census" produced by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

Rhonda Keyes Pleasants - Panelist
Co-chair of the Reburial and Memorialization Implementation Committee and member of the Family Representative Council for the East Marshall Street Well Project. She is a Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer in the Commonwealth of Virginia since 2000, Rhonda is the Managing Funeral Director of the Henry W. Dabney Funeral Home, Inc. in Ashland, Virginia.  She is a former Associate Professor of Funeral Services at John Tyler Community College where she was employed for 15 years and served as the Funeral Services Program Department Chair for 5 years.  She has earned the Certified Funeral Service Practitioner (CFSP) designation and is a Certified Crematory Operator (CCO).  Additionally, since December 2016, Rhonda has tutored nearly 100 students who are preparing to sit for the National Board Exam for funeral service. 

Autumn Rain, PhD
Autumn Rain is a historical anthropologist who comes to NYU from the College of William and Mary as a Senior Research Associate of the Institute for Historical Biology and co-director of the Remembering Slavery, Resistance, and Freedom Project. Currently, her work focuses on cemeteries of the enslaved as contested sites of reclamation within local, national, and diasporan memorial landscapes. Autumn draws on ethnographic, bioarchaeological, and documentary analyses. Her current book-length projects include studies of history, race, and identities in Rio de Janeiro and Virginia and a study of childhood, labor, and race within Virginia’s system of indentured servitude from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Joseph Sharif Hakim Rogers - Performer
Joseph Rogers has been involved in Living History and Historic Interpretation programming from a very young age while working with his family in the National Park Service. He now uses both his formal and informal training to bring to life the voices of the past for audiences across the Commonwealth and along the East Coast. He has most recently begun to focus on the Reconstruction Era and using the experience of his direct ancestor, James Apostle Fields to shine a light on the efforts, successes and hardships of African Americans who lived through the turbulent yet inspiring period that followed the American Civil War.

Ryan K. Smith, Ph.D. - Panelist
Ryan K. Smith received a Ph.D. in American Civilization from the University of Delaware and an MA in History from the College of William and Mary. He specializes in American religious history, material culture, and more recently, historic preservation. Currently, he is finishing a book project on the history and recovery of the burial grounds of Richmond, Virginia, tentatively titled "Death and Rebirth in a Southern City: Richmond's Historic Cemeteries." He has created a website dedicated to the topic, showcasing student work at His interest in early American art led him to complete an "architectural biography" of Robert Morris, an essential yet overlooked figure from the Revolutionary era who plunged from the peaks of wealth into debtors' prison in 1798. Entitled Robert Morris's Folly: The Architectural and Financial Failures of an American Founder (Yale University Press, 2014), this book explores the role of Morris's extraordinary attempt to build a palace in Philadelphia, designed by famed engineer P. C. L'Enfant, in his downfall. Dr. Smith is also the author of Gothic Arches, Latin Crosses: Anti-Catholicism and American Church Designs in the Nineteenth Century (University of North Carolina Press, 2006), which traces the surprising artistic exchange which took place beneath Protestant/Catholic hostilities in the early American republic. Dr. Smith has expertise in public history, having worked at the Library of Virginia, the Winterthur Museum, the St. Augustine Historical Society, and the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, among other institutions.

Midori Takagi, Ph.D. - Panelist 
Associate professor of history at Fairhaven College, Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, Takagi's M.Phil and Ph.D. in history are from Columbia University, while her Master's degree is from American University and her undergraduate degree is from Oberlin College. She has authored Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction” Slavery in Richmond, Virginia, 1782-1865, published by the University of Virginia Press, and focused on urban slavery. She has also contributed to a number of anthologies including Sexual Borderland: Constructing an American Sexual Past, edited by Kathleen Kennedy and Sharon Ullman, published by Ohio State University Press. Professor Takagi is a contributor to, an online reference center that makes available a wealth of materials on African American history.

Shawn O. Utsey, Ph.D. - Panelist
Dr. Utsey's research interests include understanding how race-related stress impacts the physical, psychological and social well-being of African-Americans, and to examine how trauma is manifested in the victims of racial violence. Other areas of interest include examining the influence of African-American culture (e.g., collective social orientation, spiritual centeredness, verve, etc.) on indicators of health and well-being. As a filmmaker, he developed a youth film project called Peep This, including a sister project in Segou Mali West Africa, called Peep This Segou. He produced two films telling Richmond and Virginia stories: Meet Me in the Bottom: The Struggle to Reclaim Richmond's African Burial Ground (2009) and Until the Well Runs Dry: Medicine and the Exploitation of Black Bodies (2012). 

Phil Wilayto, Editor, The Virginia Defender - Panelist
Founding member of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality and editor of The Virginia Defender, a statewide quarterly community newspaper now in its 15th year of publication. Author of The Feeding Trough, an examination of the role of right-wing foundations in shaping public policy; We Won't Go Back!, an eyewitness account of the 1989 Pittston Coal Strike in Southwest Virginia; and In Defense of Iran: Notes from a U.S. Peace Delegation's Journey through the Islamic Republic. Since 2002 he has played a leading role in the ongoing struggle to reclaim and properly memorialize Shockoe Bottom, once the epicenter of the U.S. domestic slave trade. He can be reached at

Event Support

Brian Palmer - Photographer
A Peabody-award winning journalist based in Richmond, Virginia, and advocate for the Friends of East End Cemetery. During his 30-year career, Palmer has photographed conflict, politics, activism, daily life, and more around the world and in my own backyard. His photos have appeared in the New York Times, Buzzfeed,; my writing in Smithsonian Magazine, the New York Times, and the Nation; and audio on Reveal. His documentary, Full Disclosure, which appeared in 2011 on The Documentary Channel, along with several magazine articles and photo exhibitions, grew out of three media embeds in Iraq with U.S. Marines. In 2019, along with collaborator, Seth Wessler, Palmer received a Peabody for the Reveal radio story "Monumental Lies.” Before going freelance in 2002, he was a CNN correspondent, Beijing bureau chief for US News & World Report, during which time I photographed for many of my articles. His current work includes "Make the Ground Talk," a documentary project with his wife, Erin Hollaway Palmer, that evokes life in a historic black community uprooted during World War II to build a naval base, now a top-secret U.S. military installation.

Danny Terry - Videographer
A Professional Event Videographer and Audio/Visual Specialist, Danny has been active in the film, television, and video production industries in Virginia since 2007. He is a professional member of the Richmond chapter of the Virginia Production Alliance. From 2005-2009, he attended Tidewater Community College, receiving education in the areas of video production, audio production, graphic design, photography, studio lighting, theatrical lighting, theatrical set construction and theatrical set design. Danny has worked for networks and production companies including CBN, WHRO (PBS affiliate), National Geographic TV, WTKR-TV (CBS affiliate), WCTV-48 Studios, Christian International Ministries Network, Skelly Films, Sick Flick Productions and Goldie Brown Productions. Learn more at


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Thank You!

Thank you! The symposium was a wonderful success.If you missed it, you can watch it on Facebook by clicking HERE


The Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality will host “Truth & Conciliation in the 400th Year: A Shockoe Bottom Public History Symposium” to be held Saturday, December 7, 2019, at the Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad Street (23219).

With panel discussions and cultural presentations, this all-day symposium will examine the history of Africans and people of African descent in Virginia from their earliest days to the present and the vital role that Shockoe Bottom has played in that history.

This nationally significant event is co-sponsored and hosted by the Library of Virginia, and will also present resources the library has available for African-American academic topics, family history researchers, and the general public.

Our goal is to make crystal-clear the historical impo…

Meet our Moderators

We are very pleased to confirm that Carmen Foster, Michael Blakey, and Christy Coleman have agreed to be moderators for our three main panel discussions. Learn more about them on the Participants page.


Meet our Performers!

We are very excited to have three wonderful Richmond area artists participating in the symposium, adding richness to what might be considered a traditional academic history discussion.