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Museum plans 2007 debut
Fredericksburg's National Slavery Museum slated to open in 2007.

 Museum chief Earl W. Yates talks with L. Douglas Wilder, chairman
of the museum's board, before yesterday's meeting
at Mary Washington College.

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Date published: 12/5/2002

Wilder names three to advisory panel

The National Slavery Museum will officially open in February 2007, Executive Director Earl Yates announced last night.

But former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the driving force behind the Fredericksburg museum, said he hopes to have part of it open before then. "We would like to see some dirt moved real soon," he said.

Wilder, who had previously anticipated completing part of the project this year, did not elaborate on the construction schedule.

Wilder and Yates were in Fredericksburg last night to update the community on the museum, which is planned for a 38-acre tract in the proposed Celebrate Virginia tourism complex.

About 60 people, including several City Council members, attended the information session at Mary Washington College's Dodd Auditorium, where Wilder announced the formation of an advisory panel.

Joseph Harris, distinguished professor of history at Howard University, will serve as the panel's chairman.

"It has always been my feeling that, unpleasant as the subject [of slavery] may be for some people, we need to know about it," said Harris, who teaches African history courses at Howard.

The Rev. Lawrence Davies, former mayor of Fredericksburg, and Mary Washington College President William M. Anderson Jr. have also agreed to serve on the advisory panel.

"Knowing the two of them, they will leave no stone unturned," Wilder said. "And they will make sure Fredericksburg is indeed involved."

John Hope Franklin, professor of history emeritus at Duke University, will serve as senior consultant and adviser to the museum board, Wilder said. Michael Neiditch, former director of endowment of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will continue to serve as adviser, he said.

Their roles will be separate from the advisory panel, Wilder said. He did not say whether others would be added to the panel later.

Franklin attended the initial meeting on the museum in 1993. Wilder said the 87-year-old scholar's involvement should allay fears about potential commercialization of the project.

"His only concern has been this: 'To the extent it is ever commercialized, I never want to be a part of it,'" Wilder said. "I said, 'You need have no concern.'"

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