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John Marshall House Salon Series: The Color of Justice: The Formation of National Racial Identity

When: August 30, 2017 from 5:30pm to 8:00pm

Join us for our latest salon, “The Color of Justice: The Formation of National Racial Identity” with two incredible guest speakers, Lauranett Lee, Ph.D., adjunct lecturer and assistant professor at the University of Richmond and Valarie Davis, storyteller, portraying Nanny Prosser, wife of Gabriel Prosser.

We will be diving into four legal cases that were key to the establishment of the national racial identity of enslaved and freed blacks during the lifetime of Chief Justice John Marshall. 

The event is free, but pre-registration is required. Wine by the glass will be available for purchase in the museum store.

Angela Barnett – 1793

Angela Barnett, a free African-American living near Richmond, was attacked by two white men over her allegedly harboring an enslaved boy in 1792. Barnett murdered one of her attackers in self-defense and was initially refused a pardon by the governor, despite elite whites petitioning on her behalf. In an extremely rare act of justice, the governor granted Barnett a full pardon in 1793 due to her being pregnant with a white man’s child.

Pleasants v. Pleasants – 1798

In this landmark case, members of the Pleasants family feuded over the private manumission and continued freedom of 400 enslaved individuals which would have resulted in economic losses totaling over $100,000.

Gabriel’s Rebellion – 1800

Gabriel Prosser led an unsuccessful rebellion in and around Richmond in 1800. This attempted revolt was so notable because of the intricacies and massive scale of the thwarted attempt. The group was betrayed by two men before their plan to gather on the night of August 30, 1800 was thwarted by a heavy rainstorm. The conspiracy led to 27 African Americans being hanged, including Gabriel, and a newly repressive slave system.

The Antelope Case – 1825

The Antelope was the name of a ship that was found by U.S. federal authorities carrying approximately 300 enslaved Africans with the intention of selling them in the southern United States. During this period, it was illegal for U.S. citizens to be involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, however slavery, itself, was still legal.

About Lauranett L. Lee, Ph.D.

Since 2001, Lauranett has been the founding curator of African American history at the Virginia Historical Society (VHS). 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. She also consults on a variety of history projects across the commonwealth. 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 addition, Lauranett teaches at the University of Richmond in two schools: The Jepson School of Leadership Studies and the School for Professional and Continuing Studies. She is also a 2017 Community Trustbuilding fellow in the Initiatives of Change/Hope in the Cities, an international organization engaged in racial healing and understanding.

About Valarie Davis

A gifted storyteller, playwright and producer, Valerie uses her talents to teach values and promote awareness or lesser known historical events and people. Of late, "From Tragedy to Triumph; The Martha Ann Fields Story" has been presented at over dozens of Schools and Churches in the Richmond Va area. Valerie is looking to expand this to the Hampton/Newport News area as that is where The Fields family settled.

In addition to her work on numerous plays and independent films, Valerie works in the living history educational medium, giving voice to not only Martha Ann Fields, but Coretta Scott King and Nanny Prosser, wife of Gabriel Prosser, who led the slave rebellion in Richmond in 1800. Of all the things she does, spending time with her mother, of whom she is a part-time caregiver, is her most rewarding.

What is a salon? Historically, salons served as a cultural hub for intellectuals and socialites to gather and exchange ideas.

Event Information


The John Marshall House

818 East Marshall Street 

Richmond, VA 23219