The Valentine’s “Life, Liberty & Happiness” Lecture Series Returns on Religious Freedom Day 2024

RICHMOND, VA – In celebration of Religious Freedom Day, the Valentine and James Madison’s Montpelier will host Dr. Edward L. Ayers as part of the Life, Liberty & Happiness: New Perspectives on Founding Ideas lecture series on Tuesday, January 16th from 9:00 – 10:30a.m. This series is an exploration of the evolution and contemporary relevance of America’s founding philosophies and highlights scholars whose work contributes to reinterpreting what “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” means today.

Dr. Edward L. Ayers, Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities at the University of Richmond, will explore the themes of freedom of conscience and faith in his newest book, American Visions: The United States, 1800 – 1860. In American Visions, Dr. Ayers examines bold visionaries who built vigorous traditions of dissent and innovation into the foundation of the nation. The early decades of the 19th century saw the expansion of slavery, Native dispossession, and wars with Canada and Mexico. Mass immigration and powerful religious movements sent tremors through American society. But even as the powerful defended the status quo, others defied it: voices from the margins moved the center; eccentric visions altered the accepted wisdom, and acts of empathy questioned self-interest. Join us on this important day as we consider how visionaries in the 19th century shaped our understanding of faith, consciousness and freedom today.

This year, James Madison’s Montpelier joins the Valentine as a host of the Life, Liberty & Happiness series in its second season and brings the history and perspective of a key figure from Virginia’s General Assembly.

“We’re so thrilled to have Montpelier partner with us for this season of Life, Liberty & Happiness,” said Valentine Director Bill Martin, “It was with James Madison’s support that the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was enacted which helped pave the way for the First Amendment.”

The first lecture of the 2024 season of Life, Liberty & Happiness will be hosted at the Valentine First Freedom Center at 14 S. 14th Street, Richmond, Virginia.

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.


The Valentine has been collecting, preserving and interpreting Richmond’s 400-year history for over a century. Located in the heart of historic downtown, the Valentine is a place for residents and tourists to discover the diverse stories that tell the broader history of this important region.

Montpelier is the lifelong home of James Madison, Father of the Constitution, Architect of the Bill of Rights, and fourth President of the United States. As a monument to James Madison and the Enslaved Community, a member of American history, and a center for constitutional education, Montpelier engages the public with the enduring legacy of Madison’s most powerful idea: government by the people. The historic home and 2,650-acre grounds are open to visitors and student groups throughout the year, and the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at Montpelier offers world-class residential and online educational programs. Montpelier is administered by The Montpelier Foundation and is a National Trust for Historic Preservation site.

The Valentine First Freedom Center is located on the same corner where Virginia’s General Assembly met in secret during the American Revolution and explores the past, present and future of religious freedom in America.  

Press Contact
Christina Swanson