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Slavery museum to keep tobacco money
Slavery Museum rejects call to return tobacco money


Date published: 3/20/2007

BY EDIE GROSS

An anti-smoking group has called on the U.S. National Slavery Museum to return a donation it received earlier this month from tobacco giant Philip Morris USA.

The museum, slated to open in Fredericksburg next year, has no plans to refund the $200,000, said spokesman Matt Langan.

Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, sent a letter to museum Executive Director Vonita Foster last week.

"According to your Web site, the museum 'will become a strong component in the educational development of our nation's youth,'" he wrote. "This is indeed a laudable goal, but by taking receipt of this donation, the museum is joining forces with a company that continues to target children for another form of slavery, addiction to tobacco."

Myers went on to say that accepting "tainted money" could discourage other companies from donating to the museum, which is in the midst of a $165 million capital campaign.

Langan said museum officials hope Philip Morris' donation will actually boost corporate support for the museum by setting a good example.

Though Philip Morris wasn't founded until 1902, the tobacco industry is considered one that benefited from slavery early on. The museum has called on those industries for financial support.

"We're happy that Philip Morris was progressive enough and stepped up to the plate and donated," Langan said. "We hope other corporations will follow suit."

The Richmond-based company, the nation's leading manufacturer of cigarettes, routinely awards grants like this to nonprofit and educational institutions.

In 2005, its 165 recipients included the Children's Museum of Richmond, Jamestown 2007 Inc., the Commonwealth Girl Scout Council of Virginia and departments at Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Richmond and Virginia Tech.

Edie Gross: 540/374-5428
Email: egross@freelancestar.com