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Telling the whole story
Slavery museum will tell many stories, supporter says.

 Former city planner Jervis Hairston, a descendant of slaves, stops in Freedom Alley, part
of the area's rich black history. The route was used by freed blacks in the 19th century
to move about the city without their status being challenged by the white population.

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Date published: 9/24/2004

By MICHAEL ZITZ

Jervis Hairston, whose family is the subject of a critically acclaimed book on slavery, who became Fredericksburg's first black city planner, and who has given tours of historic slavery sites in the city, has no doubt this is the right place for the U.S. National Slavery Museum.

Nor does it seem likely that the late "Roots" author Alex Haley would question the idea of putting such a museum here, since his famous ancestor Kunta Kinte was enslaved on the Waller plantation in nearby Spotsylvania County.

And there's no doubt at all that Bill Cosby likes the idea, since the revered entertainer and educator is expected to announce a donation to the museum tonight that could amount to $20 million. The money will come from the profits from 10 Cosby shows and some fund-raising parties he will host.

Cosby will appear at the University of Mary Washington tonight for a gala and a private showing of artifacts that will be put on display at the museum, which organizers say will open in 2007.

The $100 million museum founded by L. Douglas Wilder, the grandson of slaves and the first black to be elected governor in U.S., has been the subject of much controversy.

Some say it belongs in Washington or Richmond or Jamestown.

Some don't like the fact that it will be part of Celebrate Virginia, a commercial development that will include shops and a golf course.

Others fear that it might overwhelm Fredericksburg's reputation, making it better known as a place where slaves were oppressed than as one where great battles were fought during the Civil War or where George Washington grew up.

Hairston, who now works for Celebrate Virginia developer, The Silver Cos., bristles at such a notion.

"It's not where it is," he said emphatically. "It's what it does."

Besides, he said, Fredericksburg is the perfect location.


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