Sunday, March 07, 2010

Push For Slavery Museum In Richmond Is Renewed


Push For Slavery Museum In Richmond Is Renew

By Will Jones
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Published: March 5, 2010

The Richmond Slave Trail Commission is ready to take the initial steps to develop an African-American heritage district and slavery museum in Shockoe Bottom.

The commission voted yesterday to seek proposals from consultants to help direct its efforts over the coming months as it establishes a nonprofit foundation to guide the project. The consultant is expected to help assemble a board of directors, develop a fundraising strategy and sharpen a vision for the project, which would be built beside Main Street Station and could cost up to $200 million.

"It's really trying to get someone to take a vision, a dream, and put processes into place," said Del. Delores L. McQuinn, D-Richmond, and the commission's chairwoman.

A consultant's study could cost between $20,000 and $50,000, and would be paid for with city capital improvement funds that have already been set aside for the commission's work.

The commission, established by the Richmond City Council in 1998, also agreed to explore a potential partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. The National Museum of African American History is scheduled to open in late 2015 on the National Mall in Washington.

McQuinn said she hasn't had contact with the Smithsonian, but commission members said a link to Richmond could make sense given the historical significance of sites in Shockoe Bottom, including the Lumpkin's Slave Jail archaeological site and the Negro Burial Ground.

"How many places in the country have the real thing?" commissioner David Herring said. "We have the absolute authentic site."

A connection to the Smithsonian also would help attract donors and directors to the Richmond museum. "The cachet and prominence that it would give the effort here would be just off the charts," Herring said.

Attorneys with Williams Mullen have agreed to work pro bono with the commission to draft and file paperwork to start the nonprofit foundation. A name has not been announced.

The commission is stepping up its pursuit of a slavery museum in Richmond as former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder has stopped fundraising for a similar project in Fredericksburg, citing the weakened economy. The U.S. National Slavery Museum was considered for Richmond before Wilder selected a site in Fredericksburg in 2001.

Contact Will Jones at (804) 649-6911 or

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