In 1992, the then governor of Virginia, L. Douglas Wilder, announced plans for a Slavery museum. Wilder, a descendant of slaves and the first Black governor of the former Confederate state, collected one-of-a-kind artifacts, created a board including Howard and Hampton University presidents, had galas attended by Bill Cosby, accepted a gift of 38 acres of prime real estate along a major interstate, and promised a $100 million building designed by a renowned architect.
And then, he and his promises disappeared. Board members continually tried to get in contact with the governor, who left office in 1994, to no avail.
The major upset comes from those who donated items that are nowhere to be found. “I trusted them,” said Therbia Parker Sr., a general contractor from Suffolk, Va., who gave the museum nearly 100 artifacts he had collected over 40 years, including rare and invaluable pieces such as leg shackles, a handwritten bill of sale for slaves, and a collar with a plantation name and slave number on it, according to The Washington Post. “Black people deserve better than this.”
The museum, which was supposed to be finished in 2004, filed for bankruptcy last fall; filing claims worth $7 million. When questioned about the dissolute plans, Wilder, who was elected as mayor of Richmond in the same year the museum was to be finished, did not respond to phone calls or emails. As lawyers pile through the federal tax returns and documents, Black donators can do nothing but be extremely disappointed.
How can Wilder be pinned down to deal with this? Should the state of Virginia take museum plans into their own hands?