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Slavery museum possible
Celebrate Virginia eyed as possible site for proposed national slavery museum.

Visit the Photo Place

Date published: 4/29/2001

Fredericksburg's tourist attractions may one day include a national slavery museum.

Former Gov. Doug Wilder, grandson of slaves, said yesterday that Celebrate Virginia is the latest of four sites under consideration for his proposed museum.

He plans to announce his selection in about a month.

Wilder, the first black to be elected governor in the United States, was speaking at a slave descendants' gathering at Montpelier, the Orange County estate of President James Madison.

Afterward, Wilder said he has talked with Larry Silver, chief executive officer of the Silver Cos., about locating the museum at Celebrate Virginia. It would be a separate entity.

Wilder said key considerations include transportation, possibilities for expansion and environmental concerns.

Silver was unavailable for comment yesterday.

His company is planning the 2,100-acre development known as Celebrate Virginia. Plans call for shops, hotels, entertainment venues and restaurants on the Fredericksburg side of the Rappahannock River. It will also have golf courses, offices and shops on the Stafford County side.

Other possible locations for Wilder's proposed museum include Jamestown, where the first 20 Africans in America were sold as indentured servants; Richmond, which became a center of the slave trade; and Hampton, where the Hampton University Museum has a collection of African-American art.

Wilder said his proposed museum is likely to feature a replica of a slave ship, which would help visitors understand the horrible conditions faced by Africans shackled below deck.

The replica would be similar to one he saw at the Kura Hulanda Museum in Willemstad, Curaçao. That museum is near the city's harbor, a place where Dutch entrepreneurs once traded and transshipped African slaves along with other commercial goods.

Curaçao is an island north of the Venezuelan coast.

Wilder first proposed a slavery museum in 1993, and then-Gov. George Allen authorized $100,000 in start-up money. At the time, Allen said the museum would honor the determination and courage of people who endured bondage.

Yesterday, Wilder described it as a place where schoolchildren would be able to learn more about slavery and professors could teach while on sabbatical.

Among the consultants for the museum is John Hope Franklin, professor emeritus of history at Duke University and author of numerous publications, including "From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans."

The John Hope Franklin Research Center at Duke University is named for him. It is a repository for documents related to African and African-American studies.