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Virginia project faces many competitors
Several slavery museums are planned across the country, but Washington organizer says nation's capital is the only worthy site.

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Date published: 8/16/2001

The proposal for a slavery museum in Fredericksburg is not unique.

There are already museums in Louisiana and Maryland that tell parts of the story. And there are dozens more African-American history and culture museums that touch on the slave trade.

Charleston, S.C., is renovating its Slave Mart and planning a large museum.

And there are five proposals for slavery museums in Washington.

The number of existing and planned museums led Councilman Scott Howson Tuesday night to question Fredericksburg's chances for securing money and artifacts for a museum in this area.

Paul DuBois, who is leading the American Slavery Memorial Museum Project in Washington, was quick with an opinion yesterday. Fredericksburg's chances for success, he said, are slim and none.

"You're not going to get African-Americans by the millions to go to Charleston or to go to Fredericksburg," he said.

Organizers have projected that a slavery museum in Fredericksburg would draw 2 million people a year--equal to the number who toured the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington last year. DuBois pointed out that the Underground Railroad Museum being planned for Cincinnati is expected to draw only an estimated 350,000 a year.

Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who is pushing for a slavery museum in Virginia, has asked the city for a $1 million commitment as an incentive for the project. The City Council tentatively agreed Tuesday night to support the project, with a formal vote to follow a more detailed presentation on the museum.

"I know Governor Wilder is deeply dedicated to this," said DuBois, who previously established a fund-raising effort for a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington. "But, frankly, I wish your city knew what it was doing. There's no indication it does, and it would be unfortunate to have another million dollars go down the drain."

DuBois said there are 41 African-American museums across the nation, but "none do more than barely nod at slavery." His proposal calls for a 262,000-square-foot, $210 million facility in Washington, devoted entirely to the slavery story.

The museum being discussed for Fredericksburg, estimated to cost $100 million to $200 million, would also focus on slavery. Supporters say it would trace African-Americans' journey from Africa through the civil rights movement of the 1960s.


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