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Majority favors project; decision may come tomorrow
Is a slavery museum right for Fredericksburg? Some City Council members say yes, but others want more answers.

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Date published: 8/13/2001

Councilmen differ on museum Some City Council members say Fredericksburg would make the perfect site for a proposed national slavery museum, while others say they want more details before they decide.

The council may vote at tomorrow night's meeting to pledge $1 million as the city's incentive to museum organizers considering whether to choose Fredericksburg's Celebrate Virginia development as the site for the tourism attraction.

The public-comment portion of tomorrow's council meeting may be one of the few chances for city residents to have their say. Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, head of the museum board of trustees, said late last week that a decision on a site will be made "real, real soon."

In interviews yesterday, councilmen expressed varying opinions on the project, but a majority favor funding the museum.

Councilman Joe Wilson said he supports the museum idea but is "still weighing the options and talking to constituents."

He said most people with whom he has spoken favor locating the slavery museum here.

"Why not Fredericksburg? Slavery is a part of our history, it's not going to go away," Wilson said last night.

But Mayor Bill Beck said that before he makes a decision, he wants to know more about the museum of African-American culture that Congress is debating for Washington's National Mall.

"A museum of the African-American experience needs to be built," Beck said. "But I think we really need to find out what's happening with the one in Washington because it potentially could be a real mistake to have two."

After the City Council's closed-door meeting Thursday with Wilder, the museum topic was added to the agenda for tomorrow night's council meeting.

Councilman Richard Garnett said a presentation will be made at the meeting to provide the public with more details about the project.

A vote committing city money for the museum is likely, according to Vice Mayor Gordon Shelton.

Both Shelton and Councilman Ambrose Bailey said they are convinced the city is the ideal venue for the museum, which organizers have said will be modeled after the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

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