University of Richmond SPCS student aids in research for documentary about renowned African-American caterer airing Feb. 1

January 31, 2018

Elvatrice BelschesElvatrice Belsches, a graduate student in the University of Richmond’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies, served as a researcher, scholarly advisor and cast member for a new documentary, “The Hail Storm: John Dabney in Virginia,” that will air on WCVE PBS on Feb. 1 at 9 p.m.

The documentary tells the life story of John Dabney, a renowned African-American caterer in 19th-century Richmond.

“Known for his mint juleps and his honesty, Dabney lived more than half of his life as a slave before buying his freedom,” Belsches said. “As the caterer to Virginia’s elite social circles, Dabney experienced both the travails of enslavement and the rewards of freedom .”

Belsches specializes in chronicling the experiences of African-Americans in Richmond and beyond. She has authored several biographies for the “African American National Biography” (Oxford University Press) and is the author of “Black America Series: Richmond, Virginia.” She also served as a researcher for Steven Spielberg’s movie “Lincoln.”

Belsches is currently completing the Graduate Certificate Program in Public History at University of Richmond.

“I was honored to uncover that John Dabney was the official caterer for the annual Board of Trustees banquets for Richmond College (now UR).”

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