Community Engagement Committee Members

The Community Engagement Committee comprises African American descendants of Red Hill’s enslaved laborers and a dedicated cadre of supporters and friends who are educators, historians, performing artists, faith leaders, and civic activists.  The Committee provides support and guidance in the planning and implementation of Quarter Place Trail. It seeks to encourage community participation in the Foundation’s efforts to incorporate the complexities of the institution of slavery within its progressive interpretation of the Patrick Henry story.

Dr. Gloria Braxton

Dr. Gloria Braxton is a retired University Administrator and Professor of Political Science.

Alex Garner

As a member of the enslaved descendants community, I am proud to be a present day vessel of hope and light. Knowing in us; the morals and values of our families at Red Hill still live through our generation today.

Reverend Dr. Ceasor T. Johnson, Sr.

Ceasor Trenail Johnson, Sr., son of the Reverend Murry C. Johnson and Mrs. Wilma Wilson Johnson was born in Jackson, Mississippi. Having united with the Greater Mount Mariah Missionary Baptist Church under Pastor C.W. Houston at the age of fourteen, he was a member of the Gospel Choir and a teacher in the Bible Class.

He graduated from Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Economics in 1989. While in college, he was Senior Class President, a member of the Parade of Personalities and Historian of the Delta Kappa Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He was on the Dean’s List for three semesters and was a member of the Pan-Hellenic Council.

On November 19, 1988, Dr. Johnson was united in Holy Matrimony with the former Miss Rosie M. Spann.  They moved to Virginia in June, 1989 and he worked with the U.S.D.A. Soil Conservation Service. He has served as a soil conservationist at the Warsaw, Staunton, and Harrisonburg offices.  He served as the District Conservationist in the Campbell County Field Office in Rustburg, Virginia.  Dr. Johnson was employed by Campbell County Schools where he was the GED Instructor at the Fray Educational Center in Rustburg, Virginia. Dr. and Mrs. Johnson are the proud parents of three sons, Ceasor Trenail II, Caleb Theshawn, Cole Trevonne and daughter Ceasha Telaine the family resides in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The Johnson’s united with Ebenezer Baptist Church in Staunton in August, 1989 and he was placed on trial for deacon in January, 1990.  He served as a Sunday School teacher and Superintendent, a Bible Study member, a member of the Ebenezer Sanctuary Choir, and Co-Chairman of Deacons.  Dr. Johnson acknowledged his call to the ministry in 1995 and was licensed to preach March 1996 under the tutelage of Pastor Micheal A. Turner.  He is a graduate of Virginia University of Lynchburg, formerly Virginia Seminary and College, and holds a Master of Religious Education and Master of Divinity.  He received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Eastern Theological Seminary.  He received his earned Doctor of Ministry Degree from Virginia University of Lynchburg in Lynchburg, Virginia, as a  Ralph Reavis Fellow in May 2010.

He is the Pastor of Spring Hill Baptist Church of Brookneal, Virginia, where he has served for the past twenty-two years. Dr. Johnson has been a GED Instructor since 2008 and teaches the GED for Lynchburg City Schools in the Blue Ridge Regional Jail system. Dr. Johnson has been a keynote speaker, participated on panels, and given lectures on mentoring, diversity and inclusion strategy, cultural competence, African Americans in the workplace, and other survival techniques.  He has received the following recognitions for his community work: Community Champion from Social Services board, Father of the Year from the Lynchburg Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., President’s Award for the Campbell County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  He is a Life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and is a former past President of the Gamma Nu Lambda Chapter in Lynchburg, Virginia.  Dr. Johnson is a member of Beta Phi Boule of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc. 

Dr. Johnson is also a Life member of the NAACP, and is the immediate past President of the Campbell County Branch of the NAACP.   

In May 2012, he was re-elected to serve on the Lynchburg City Council as the Ward II representative for a third four-year term.  Dr. Johnson is the former Vice Mayor of the City of Lynchburg.  He is a former member of the City of Lynchburg Finance Committee and served as the chair of the Physical Development Committee.  Dr. Johnson served as Co-chair of the Athletic task force that installed artificial tuff football fields at the City High Schools.  He serves on the Board of the Jubilee Family Development Center.  He is a former member of the Board of Virginia First Cities.  He has served on the Environmental Quality Policy Committee for the Virginia Municipal League.  He served as the Urban Section Chair for the Virginia Municipal League Executive Committee.  Dr. Johnson served on the Board of Directors of National Black Caucus of Local Elected Official as the National Chaplin. Dr. Ceasor Johnson currently serves as the President of Eastern Theological Seminary.

Pastor Johnson brings to the ministry and any endeavor a winning personality, a sense of Christian duty, and a commitment to spreading the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Sherman LaPrade

Sherman A. LaPrade is a retired educator and the owner of Party Tyme Rentals.

Sheron White Simpson

Sheron White Simpson is a native of Lynchburg and founder of Kuumba Dance Ensemble, Inc., a West African drum/dance company for children and adults performing in a wide range of community events, in a number of area venues, community centers, colleges, family reunions, festivals, and churches.

Sheron earned a B.S. degree in Health and Physical Education and M.A. in Special Education. Sheron taught in The Lynchburg City Schools before moving to Baltimore and Washington, DC where she served as a teacher, Counselor, Assistant Principal, and Principal. 

Sheron moved back to Lynchburg and worked at Horizon Behavioral Health as a QMHP Clinician and Case Manager. She is now retired, married, volunteers in her church’s daycare and aftercare programs, certified Drums Alive Instructor, as well as Dancer/Owner and choreographer for Kuumba Dance Ensemble. 

Research Advisory Council Members

The Research Advisory Council (RAC) advises the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation on research, teaching, and public history initiatives. Our work is centered on Patrick Henry, the Henry family, and the community of enslaved people at Red Hill. Composed of scholars with expertise spanning a variety of historical fields, the RAC is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive educational environment at Red Hill. We work collaboratively with various stakeholders to identify and pursue new opportunities that advance public knowledge about Red Hill, its people, and their place within American and global history. The RAC also advises Red Hill on the development of best practices in historical interpretation and curation to better serve its educational mission. 

Dr. Jim Ambuske

Jim Ambuske, Ph.D., leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library at Mount Vernon. He serves as executive producer and host of the podcast Conversations at the Washington Library and co-host of the Mount Vernon’s Digital Talk Series. A historian of the American Revolution, Scotland, and the British Atlantic World, Ambuske graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016. He is a former Patrick Henry Fellow and served as the Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library from 2016 to 2019. At UVA Law, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.

Ambuske is the recipient of numerous fellowships and grants, including from the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, the Jefferson Trust Foundation, and the Scottish Library and Information Council. He is the author and co-author of several articles and book chapters on Scotland, the American Revolution, early American law, and digital history. He is presently at work on a book about emigration from Scotland in the era of the American Revolution.

Dr. Brian Bates

Brian D. Bates, Ph.D., R.P.A., is a Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Longwood University where he has been a faculty member since 1994. Dr. Bates founded the Longwood Institute of Archaeology and he directs the Dr. James W. Jordan Archaeology Field School at Longwood. He received both his M.A. and Ph.D. in Archaeology (ceramic period settlement patterns of the Virgin Island Group) from the Institute of Archaeology, University of London. Dr. Bates has conducted field work in Virginia, Great Britain, the British Virgin Islands and Barbados. His research interests include settlement patterns, the Ceramic Periods in the Caribbean and Virginia, complex societies, and the threats to archaeological sites along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

Dr. Bates’ research has been featured in articles in Smithsonian magazine, Welcome magazine, Stars and Stripes, the Washington Post, the Associated Press and numerous television news pieces, including CNN. Along with his late colleague, Dr. Peter Drewett, Dr. Bates identified a large prehistoric ceremonial ball court on the island of Tortola – the first of its kind in the Lesser Antilles. His many projects throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia include locating Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Courthouse at Buckingham, his long term research project at the Late-Woodland Period Sappony Indian Village known as the Wade Site, and his research into the effects of shoreline change on archaeological sites. Dr. Bates is currently the Principal Investigator for a National Science Foundation funded research project examining archaeological research as an avenue for enhancing STEM competencies in undergraduate students. Dr. Bates has raised more than $2.1 million dollars in his career from grants, contracts and philanthropic sources to support undergraduate research at Longwood University.

Brian lives in Buckingham County with his wife Michele, their son Henry and their dog Rocky.

Dr. Sara Collini

Sara Collini is a historian of early America studying slavery, women’s history, the history of medicine, and digital history. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in University History at Clemson University. Her research focuses on reconstructing the history of enslaved midwives who lived and worked during the eras of the American Revolution and Early Republic in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. She is the author of “The Labors of Enslaved Midwives in Revolutionary Virginia,” in the edited volume Women in the American Revolution: Gender, Politics, and the Domestic World (University of Virginia Press, 2019).

Collini previously worked at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and collaborated on digital public history projects at the National Women’s History Museum and George Washington’s Mount Vernon, including the Database of Mount Vernon’s Enslaved Community.

Dr. Alexi Garrett

Alexandra Garrett is an Assistant Professor of early American history at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, and her B.A. from St. Olaf College. She is currently turning her dissertation into a manuscript, which focuses on the intersection of gender, slave ownership, and manufacturing in post-Revolutionary Virginia. Her research has been generously supported by Patrick Henry’s Red Hill, Monticello, Mount Vernon, and the Harvard Business School, among others. Follow her on X at @AlexiGarrett.

Dr. Sara Georgini

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Sara Georgini earned her Ph.D. in history from Boston University in 2016. For over a decade, she has worked for the Adams Papers editorial project at the Massachusetts Historical Society, where she is series editor for The Papers of John Adams.

Committed to the preservation of and access to rare primary sources, Sara has worked on the selection, annotation, indexing, and team production of more than a dozen scholarly editions drawn from the Adams Papers (Harvard Univ. Press, 2009– ), covering the history of American political life in the era from the Declaration to disunion. As a historical editor, she publishes authoritative editions of the founders’ words; leads student and teacher workshops; curates manuscripts and artifacts in thematic exhibits; and brings Adams expertise (spanning three centuries) to the broad audiences of groups like National History Day. Thanks to the Historical Society’s trove of Adams and Jefferson manuscripts, she teaches frequently on constitutionalism, founding-era thought, and the course of Anglo-American empire. Sara is the author of Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family (Oxford Univ. Press, 2019), and she writes about early American history for Smithsonian.

She is a co-founder and contributor to The Junto and the Society for US Intellectual History blogs. As a member of the Research Advisory Council, Sara will help the Red Hill team to tackle two challenges: 1) connecting public historians, independent scholars, and adjunct faculty with a greater array of research resources and professional opportunities to share their scholarship and 2) amplifying the rich dialogue happening between public history institutions, libraries, museums, and archives.

Dr. Marcus Nevius

Marcus P. Nevius is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Rhode Island, where he teaches courses in the history of slavery, the Revolution, Confederation, and Early Republican periods in the early United States; and, in the history of African Americans in the early American republic. He is the author of “New Histories of Marronage in the Anglo-Atlantic World and Early America,” published in History Compass; and, of City of Refuge: Slavery and Petit Marronage in the Great Dismal Swamp, 1763-1856 (University of Georgia Press, 2020). He has published book reviews in the Journal of African American History, the Journal of Southern History, and H-Net Civil War and an opinion piece in JSTOR DailyHe is the recipient of research fellowships granted by the Special Collections Research Center of the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary; the Virginia Museum of History and Culture; and, the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon.

Nevius holds a B.A. and M.A. in history from North Carolina Central University, and a Ph.D. in history from The Ohio State University. Follow him on X @marcneev.

Dr. Tamika Nunley

Tamika Nunley is an Associate Professor of History at Cornell University. She recently taught her final class at Oberlin College and Conservatory after spending the past six years there as Associate Professor of American History. Her research and teaching interests include slavery, gender, nineteenth-century legal history, digital history, and the American Civil War.  At Oberlin, she created the History Design Lab which allows students to develop scholarly projects that involve methodological approaches such as digital humanities, public history, creative nonfiction, and curatorial practices. Her book, At the Threshold of Liberty: Women, Slavery, and Shifting Identities in Washington, D.C. (UNC, 2021) examines African American women’s strategies of self-definition in the contexts of slavery, fugitivity, courts, schools, streets, and the government during the Civil War era.

She has published articles and reviews in the Journal of Southern History, The William and Mary Quarterly, the Journal of American Legal History and the Journal of the Civil War Era. In addition to being a lifetime member of the Association of Black Women Historians, she serves on the editorial board of Civil War History, and on committees for the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, the Society of Civil War Historians, and the Southern Historical Association. She is currently completing a second book, The Demands of Justice: Enslaved Women, Capital Crime, and Clemency in Early Virginia, 1705-1865, with the University of North Carolina Press. Her work has been supported by the Andrew Mellon and Woodrow Wilson Foundations as well as the American Association of University Women.

Dr. John Ragosta

John Ragosta is a historian at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. He has taught at the University of Virginia, George Washington University, and Oberlin, Hamilton, and Randolph Colleges. He is currently a fellow at Virginia Humanities.

Dr. Ragosta authored Religious Freedom: Jefferson’s Legacy, America’s Creed (University of Virginia Press, 2013) and Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia’s Religious Dissenters Helped to Win the American Revolution & Secured Religious Liberty (Oxford University Press 2010). His most recent book, Patrick Henry: Proclaiming a Revolution, was released by Routledge Press in 2016. Ragosta is the lead editor on the recently released The Founding of Thomas Jefferson’s University (University of Virginia, 2019) and associate editor of In the Hands of the People: Thomas Jefferson on Equality, Faith, Freedom, Compromise, and the Art of Citizenship (Random House, 2020). He has published peer-reviewed articles in historic, legal, and scientific journals and is a frequent commentator on topics of public interest.

Before returning to academia, Dr. Ragosta was a partner at Dewey Ballantine LLP. He holds both a Ph.D. and a J.D. from the University of Virginia and a B.S. (Physics-Chemistry, Philosophy) from Grove City College.

Peighton Young

Peighton Young is a historian of early America, specializing in African American history and slavery legislation in Virginia and the Upper South. Young is currently a Ph.D. student at the College of William and Mary and graduate apprentice at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. Since April 2020, Young has served as a historian and project consultant for the Red Hill Quarter Place project, providing research on the history of slavery and post-slavery Black life on the property, as well as locating and interviewing descendants of those formerly enslaved at Red Hill. As a public historian committed to strengthening Black historical interpretation and building long-lasting relationships between historical sites and the Black community, Young has also contributed extensive work to Preservation Virginia’s Black history and descendant projects at sites including Bacon’s Castle in Surry, Virginia and the John Marshall House in Richmond, Virginia.

Young received their B.A. in Art History and M.A. in History from Virginia Commonwealth University.

More information coming soon!

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