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Slavery museum's appeal
Doug Wilder and Bill Cosby ask every American to give $8 to help fund the museum, which is to be built in Fredericksburg.

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Date published: 9/23/2006


RICHMOND--If every American contributes $8, the U.S. National Slavery Museum could open exhibits as early as next year, Bill Cosby, a key contributor to the project, said yesterday.

Cosby joined Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder in launching a new campaign to raise $100 million toward the Fredericksburg museum's $200 million cost by asking people to give up what Cosby termed "the price of two shots of Scotch."

Cosby also encouraged parents to donate on their kids' behalf.

"The incentive is that they would join in with the rest of the United States of America in saying yes, as an American, I gave $8 to help build something that tells the story," he said in a teleconference with Wilder. "This is needed. Period."

Cosby has already committed to donating at least $1 million to the museum.

Cosby said he came up with the $8 idea while brainstorming on what the average American could afford to give. Wilder said the number also has symbolic significance to what is touted as the first national museum dedicated solely to telling the story of American slavery.

"The figure 8, in shape, is both of the shackles, which is the symbol of slavery," said Wilder, a former Virginia governor and the grandson of slaves. "If you turn it on its side, it's the symbol of infinite freedom."

Incidentally, if each of the country's 288.4 million men, women and children donated $8 toward the museum, its coffers would boast $2.3 billion. (If the appeal is strictly limited to adults, the cash drops to $1.7 billion.)

The campaign marks the latest attempt at fundraising for a project in the works for more than a decade.

Wilder struggled to find a location before settling on a site in the Silver Cos.' Celebrate Virginia South near the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg.

Some exhibits were supposed to open in 2003. Later, the date was pushed to 2007.

"In terms of whether the museum will be open next year, no, it won't," Wilder said. "Will some parts of it be open next year? It might be."

The primary problem has been raising funds, organizers acknowledge.

Fundraising seemed to get a jolt in February, when organizers had to reschedule a gala after high ticket sales forced them to look for a larger venue.

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