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A cause for the Cos
Bill Cosby begins quest to raise millions for National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg

 Abby Bland, a University of Mary Washington senior, greets entertainer Bill Cosby (center) and Gerald Foster, a Richmond professor and volunteer scholar for the National Slavery Museum, as they arrive at a fund-raiser yesterday for the project.
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Date published: 9/25/2004

By MICHAEL ZITZ

Bill Cosby said last night that he will do 10 performances to raise millions for the U.S. National Slavery Museum for his ancestors, for today's children and for his friend Doug Wilder.

At a black tie gala at the University of Mary Washington, Cosby, whose paternal and maternal grandparents were all from Virginia, said, he owes his ancestors 10 days "for staying alive" while enduring slavery.

He said he hopes other entertainers will follow his example to help raise money for the $100 million museum scheduled to open in 2007 on the Fredericksburg side of the Rappahannock River at the Celebrate Virginia development.

To whites who fear the museum will shine a harsh light on America's past, and perhaps to those who fear the museum's global reach could make Fredericksburg synonymous with slavery, Cosby said, "This museum is not going to bring pain to anybody. It's going to bring closure."

"We need history," he said. "We need prooffor our own children to see the struggle of our ancestors--not for white people to go with their heads bowed, but to make young African-Americans see this is real."

He said he hopes the museum becomes a place where schoolteachers can make an emotional breakthrough with children who resist education, "when they see their ancestors in this position. When they see how tight the irons around their legs were, maybe it will stop some from wanting to become a mother at a very young age. Maybe it will make them want to become an anthropologist."

Cosby joked that he's really undertaking the massive fund-raising effort that could generate as much as $20 million, to get former Virginia Gov. Wilder, the founder of the slavery museum, off his back.

"Ever since I've known him he's been talking about this museum," Cosby said. "I'm just here because I'm hoping to get it over with," he said, as the room filled with laughter.

"I love me some Doug Wilder," he said. "Doug will tell you to sit down even if you are already sitting."

Cosby joked about those who have belittled the museum concept and those who have predicted it will never come to fruition.


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