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Historic Academy Theatre
February 18 @ 4:30 pm


Join the Academy Center of the Arts in viewing Unmarked, a film about the thousands of African-American grave sites and burial grounds for enslaved persons that have been disappearing over the years. Here in Virginia alone, stories of thousands at rest could vanish from history altogether if these locations are not restored and those with personal connections to these burial sites have recently begun to uncover and maintain locations across the state.

The documentary has appeared in nine film festivals, including the New Orleans Film Festival and the Pan African Film Festival and was nominated for a Capital Emmy Award in 2021. The Academy is proud to highlight the efforts of Lynchburg locals, who helped to bring this film to life and to share the significance of this topic through the art of film for Black History Month.

The film is 40 minutes long, and this event will include live performances, poetry, and a panel discussion directly following the film. The event is free, and we encourage everyone to reserve their seats as tickets are limited. The panelists include Jerome Preston Bates, Brian Palmer, Chris Haley, Crystal Rosson, Brad J. Bennett, and Murrell Thornhill.

Panelist Biographies:

Jerome Preston Bates (Host/MC)
Jerome Preston Bates is an American theater, film, and television actor, director, and playwright. Bates was born in Augusta, Georgia.

He has been on several Law & Order shows and played a corrections officer on the HBO series Oz. On November 5, 2007, Bates took over the role of Derek Frye on the ABC soap opera, All My Children, the third actor to play that character. A winner of six Audelco Awards, including Herald Loomis in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone; Carter G. Woodson Award.

Brian Palmer (Moderator)
Brian Palmer’s work as a multimedia journalist has appeared in/on the New York Times, Smithsonian magazine, PBS, BBC, Reveal, and other outlets. With colleagues Seth Wessler and Esther Kaplan, he received the Peabody Award for “Monumental Lies,” a 2018 Reveal radio story about public funding for Confederate sites. In 2020, he won the VQR Prize for Photography for “The Lives of East End.” He participated in the documentary film, Unmarked.
Chris Haley (Co-director/Archival Expert/Panelist)
As Director of the Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland at the Maryland State Archives Research Department and the Utopia Film Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland, Mr. Haley has served on many prestigious boards in the world of African American genealogy as well as in the Arts. He is the Co-director, Archival Expert, and Co-writer of Unmarked.
Crystal Rosson (Descendant/Panelist)
Crystal is an educator, descendant, and local historian. In 2017 she was a panelist at UVA’s first symposium, “Universities, Slavery, Public Memory, & the Built Landscape”; “Roots & Remembrance at Sweet Briar: A Discussion with Descendants.” Crystal also appeared as a guest on the Virginia Humanities podcast “With Good Reason.” She participated in the documentary film, Unmarked.
Brad J. Bennett (Co-director/Producer/Panelist)
Brad Bennett is a Japanese-American filmmaker and Emmy-nominated producer based in Virginia. His first feature documentary, Forgive–Don’t Forget, chronicles the search for a family on the other side of the world in order to return an heirloom taken during World War II. The film won the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2017 Guam International Film Festival. Forgive–Don’t Forget was acquired by Gravitas Ventures in 2018 and released on Hulu and Amazon. Bennett has been featured in The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. He is the Co-director, Producer, and DP for Unmarked. 
Murrell Thornhill (Co-owner of Tharp Funeral Home/Panelist)
Murrell W. Thornhill IV, is a co-owner of Tharp Funeral Home. He is a native of Lynchburg, where he graduated from Heritage High School. He has undergraduate degrees from John Tyler Community college and Norfolk State University and a Graduate degree from Longwood University. After his service in the United States Army, stationed at Ft Bragg, NC, Murrell attended John Tyler Community College and became a licensed funeral director in 2003.




Note that the event producer and Artist may change dates, times, and/or venues depending on the current COVID-19 environment. Ticket buyers will be updated by the Academy Center of the Arts staff, should any change to schedule or venue occurs.


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For more information or to reserve tickets to this performance, contact our Box Office at (434) 846-8499.




Sponsored By:


Supported by the BWXT Access Program



Know Before You Go:


Age Requirement

All patrons, regardless of age, must have a ticket for this performance unless otherwise stated. All ages are welcome.

Camera Policy

Videography and audio recording during the performances are prohibited. Photography of the set on stage is allowed pre-show, post-show, and during intermission. But we do ask that you show our designers and visiting performers some love by crediting them (and by tagging us) in your social media posts.

Content Advisory

The Academy Center of the Arts offers a diverse selection of entertainment. Not all productions may appeal to or be appropriate for every guest or for all ages. Ticket buyers should take responsibility for making informed decisions regarding their purchases. We recommend visiting the official show website of each show you are coming to see at the Academy. If you ever have questions about the content or appropriateness of a show, please contact us at [email protected].

Doors Open

Our lobby doors open 60 minutes prior to showtime. House doors open 30 minutes prior to showtime for seating.

Inclement Weather

All indoor performances scheduled at the Academy Center of the Arts normally take place as planned unless otherwise stated.


Parking is available on-site and throughout downtown Lynchburg. The parking map above shows all of the free public and paid parking available. In addition, street parking is also available on most streets.


View Parking Map


Please note: If attending an event or performance after 5 pm or on weekends, the Lynchburg Grand Hotel parking deck, Lot 2 (Pacific Life Lot), and Lot 12 (Regional Business Alliance) are free and open for public use. We suggest utilizing these lots, which are closest to the Academy Center of the Arts and within walking distance.

Ticket Policies

Tickets may be purchased in advance or at the door. Our delivery methods are as follows:

Print at Home: This option allows you to print your tickets at home or access them on a mobile device via email.

Box Office Pick Up: You may stop by our Box Office, Monday through Friday, 12:00pm – 5:00pm, and have us print your tickets for you.

Will Call Pick Up: If your tickets are being held at Will Call, you can collect them inside the lobby at the Box Office counter.

All tickets for this show will be sold through academycenter.org and our ticketing system. Please do not use third-party resellers, as we do not contract with them. Should you use a reseller, the Academy Center of the Arts will not be liable for any issues with your purchase.

All ticket sales are subject to a Historic Theatre Restoration Fee and credit/debit card processing fees.


Want to volunteer and see this show for free? Contact Mele Thompson, [email protected], for more information.

Historic Academy Theatre
February 18 @ 4:30 pm