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Cosby, Silvers top Slavery Museum donor list
Comedian Bill Cosby, The Silver Cos. and its chief executive officer are listed as million-dollar donors to the U.S. National Slavery Museum.

DONOR LIST: Search the entire list of contributors to the U.S. National Slavery Museum.

Date published: 6/16/2008

By PAMELA GOULD

Comedian Bill Cosby, The Silver Cos. and its chief executive officer are listed as million-dollar donors to the U.S. National Slavery Museum.

Six days after museum founder L. Douglas Wilder appeared before the Fredericksburg City Council asking to be exempt from real-estate taxes citing financial constraints, the museum today released a list of its donors.

At the top of the list, in the category of gifts of $1 million and above, are The Silver Cos., Silver CEO Larry Silver, and William and Camille Cosby.

The next category, for gifts of $100,000 to $999,999, adds Wachovia and Philip Morris USA, and repeats Cosby and Silver.

Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) and Pei Partnership Architects, are among those listed as having given between $10,000 and $99,999.

Museum officials have in the past steadfastly avoided providing an open look into the nonprofit’s finances, but this morning distributed an e–mail alert to the museum’s spring/summer 2008 newsletter.

The 20-page newsletter provides a 17-page list of people and businesses that have contributed gifts and in-kind donations through 2007.

Previously, museum officials said they had received $50 million in cash and pledges.

Councilman Matt Kelly said the information is a “good first step” in learning more about the museum, but falls short of what he needs to make decisions about it, including whether to support a tax exemption.

Kelly said he is interested in knowing how involved Wilder will be with the museum once his term as Richmond mayor ends this year. He also wants to be kept updated on the project’s progress.

“This is a project of a magnitude that requires very close cooperation between the city and slavery museum and we’re not there yet,” he said today.

The Silver Cos. donated the 38 acres on which the museum is to be built. The museum’s most recent tax return listed assets of $17.7 million, roughly $17.4 million of which is the value of the land.

The museum is to be built within the Fredericksburg portion of the Celebrate Virginia tourism and retail development.

Cosby serves on the museum board. In September 2004, he announced that he would give the museum proceeds from 10 of his concerts, a donation he then estimated could total $20 million.

Lawrence Davies, a former Fredericksburg mayor and pastor of Shiloh (Old Site) Baptist Church, also serves on the museum board.

C.C. Pei, of Pei Partnership Architects in New York, designed the museum.

Last week, Wilder said he couldn’t guarantee anything would open on the site this year. Deadlines for opening have continually been pushed back since Wilder announced Fredericksburg as the site of the museum in 2001.

Last month, museum Executive Director Vonita Foster requested a one-year extension to begin construction. Without an extension, the museum’s special-use permit to build a structure taller than normally allowed at the site expires Aug. 1.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com