Richmond joins competition for slavery museum

August 16, 2001 12:00 am

By The Associated Press

 RICHMOND—Richmond offered a $1.5 million incentive package for a proposed national slavery museum the day before Fredericksburg’s City Council voted to commit $1 million to the project.

Officials in Hampton and Petersburg also have expressed interest in competing for former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder’s project.

Richmond City Manager Calvin D. Jamison sent a two-page proposal to Wilder on Tuesday offering to contribute land for the museum, restore a city dock in the area and identify “substantial local support from the corporate community.”

Richmond’s proposal does not include a direct cash contribution.

Wilder, the nation’s first elected black governor and the grandson of slaves, first proposed the museum during a 1993 trip to Africa. He did not immediately return a phone call to his Richmond office Thursday.

Some Richmond City Council members have objected to putting the museum in Fredericksburg.

“If it goes to Fredericksburg, we African-Americans will have had our heritage and culture put on the auction block once again to be sold to the highest bidder,” said Councilman Sa’ad El-Amin.

“I’m not surprised Richmond would take that attitude,” said Fredericksburg City Councilman Ambrose Bailey. “They’re just very upset that a very small historic city would be able to compete.”

The Silver Cos., a Fredericksburg developer, has said it would donate 20 to 25 acres valued at up to $12 million. The company hopes to add the museum to its plans for Celebrate Virginia, a 2,100-acre golf, tourist and commercial venture along the Rappahannock River.

Fredericksburg’s $1 million payment, approved in a 1:15 a.m. vote Wednesday after almost four hours of public comment, rests on Wilder or a designee making a public presentation to city residents. The plan still requires the council’s ratification. The Silver Cos. has agreed to repay the $1 million to the city.

Several Richmond council members said the city is a better site for the museum because it was the capital of the Confederacy and took part in the slave trade.

Bailey noted Fredericksburg had a significant slave population and was home to free blacks. Supporters also say the city’s location is ideal because it is midway between Richmond and Washington, the Confederate and Union capitals.

The museum would cost an estimated 100 million to 200 million and would draw at least 2 million visitors annually, Fredericksburg officials said. 

Copyright 2001 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.