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Wilder to speak on slavery museum
Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder will hold a press conference today on his plan for a national slavery museum.

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Date published: 8/22/2001

Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder has decided it's time to talk publicly about his slavery museum proposal.

Wilder, who has been unavailable for comment recently, will hold a news conference in Richmond this morning about the national museum's location.

Fredericksburg, Richmond and Hampton have been named as the three sites in the running, although the Fredericksburg City Council is the only governing body that has met with Wilder. It was not known whether Wilder plans today to announce a decision on the site.

Fredericksburg tentatively has pledged $1 million to the project, to go along with a commitment of land from Silver Cos. Chief Executive Officer Larry Silver that is estimated to be worth $10 million to $12 million.

Richmond has offered a $1.5 million incentive package. Hampton officials say they're not ready to offer any incentives because they haven't received any information about the museum.

Today's news conference will be held on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, where Wilder is a distinguished professor at the Center for Public Policy.

Fredericksburg councilmen said yesterday that they did not know what Wilder plans to announce. Several council members said they weren't concerned the event is being held in Richmond.

"He lives and works there, so it's natural to have it there," Councilman Richard Garnett said.

Silver, who has promised to donate 20 to 25 acres for the museum in his Celebrate Virginia tourism development, said the news conference's location is "irrelevant." Councilman Ambrose Bailey agreed, and said he remains confident Fredericksburg will be chosen.

But other councilmen said they aren't sure what to think.

"I don't know what you can read into that. It would be nice if he came up here and announced it, wouldn't it?" Councilman Joe Wilson said.

"Doug Wilder has always been somewhat cautious in his dealings, and it's hard to read anything into this situation," Councilman Scott Howson said. "If you've got to draw a conclusion, I would say it's not a good sign. And it's not a good sign that he's holding the conference before making a presentation in Fredericksburg."

The council's $1 million contribution to the museum--if Wilder chooses to put it in the city--is contingent on a public presentation from Wilder or one of his designees. As of yesterday afternoon, Wilder had not committed to a date for that presentation.