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Proposed slavery museum gets new executive director
National Slavery Museum has new executive director.

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Date published: 8/13/2003

By ELIZABETH PEZZULLO

Proposed slavery museum gets new executive director

Less than a year after being appointed, Earl Yates is out as executive director of the proposed National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg.

And his successor has already been chosen.

She is Dr. Vonita Foster, who has been the director of the L. Douglas Wilder Library and Learning Resource Center at Virginia Union University in Richmond since 1989.

Wilder, the former governor, is the board chairman of the museum.

Yates did not explain why he is being replaced.

"I was told about a month ago that they were going to make a change and that was about it," said Yates on his cell phone yesterday. "They said there were no performance concerns, just that they would make a change."

Yates said his last day on the job was Monday.

Calls to Wilder's Richmond office yesterday were not returned.

Other members include Hampton University President William Harvey and Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert.

"We are very fortunate to have someone of Dr. Foster's professional stature join our team," Wilder said in a press statement released late yesterday afternoon.

Before she went to work at Virginia Union, Foster was the first black woman to serve on the Hanover County School Board, the first black elected president of the Virginia Independent College and University Library Association, and the first black librarian at the Library of Virginia.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I see as being a natural progression of all my work over the past 15 years," she said.

Conceived by Wilder over a decade ago, the slavery museum is planned for 38 acres near Interstate 95 and the Rappahannock River in the Celebrate Virginia tourism development.

The project is expected to cost between $100 million and $200 million and open in 2007.

Foster holds a doctorate from Virginia Commonwealth University, two masters degrees from Atlanta University and Virginia State University, and a bachelors degree from Virginia State University.

She's served on the board of directors for the Poe Museum, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, the Maymount Foundation Advisory Committee and is a current member of the board of directors for the Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and & International Studies. She is also on the board of the Medical College of Virginia Foundation Founding Committee-The Sickle Cell Initiative.

To reach ELIZABETH PEZZULLO: phone number 540/374-5421 e-mail address epezzullo@freelancestar.com