John Dabney was a giant of 19th-century Richmond. Born enslaved, Dabney was hired-out to bars and restaurants — and managed to save enough from tips to purchase the freedom of his wife and child when they were threatened to be sold away. He earned a reputation for elaborate “Hail-Storm” mint juleps and terrapin stew. Dabney and his wife, Elizabeth, built a strong future for their children, all of whom thrived. Yet today, Dabney is all but forgotten.
Produced locally by Field Studio and funded by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and WCVE/The Community Idea Stations, “The Hail-Storm” features several local scholars and actors, bringing John Dabney’s story back to life through re-creations of his famous dishes and immersive visits with descendants. Learn more: hailstormdabney.com
The 26-minute film will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers and Gary Flowers, a local radio host, community advocate, and Vice President of the Historic Jackson Ward Association.