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June 30, 2016

Prospects Still Dim for Ex-Va. Governor’s Slavery Museum

Former Virginia governor Douglas Wilder’s attempt to resurrect his planned United States National Slavery Museum appears no closer to fruition than his original proposal, which foundered after more than two decades of planning and fundraising, writes The New York Times.

The article traces the tortured history of the project, which Mr. Wilder proposed in the 1990s. The museum, with a price tag of $100 million and a design by famed architect C.C. Pei, was to have been built on donated land in Fredericksburg, Va., between Richmond and Washington, D.C. That plan fell apart amid a welter of debt and a bitter battle between the museum organization and the city over unpaid taxes.

Mr. Wilder announced plans two years ago to shift the project to a 19th-century Richmond structure that once housed a historic black church. However, the building’s owner — Virginia Commonwealth University, where the Mr. Wilder teaches — has made no commitment, and the museum reported no fundraising in 2014. Richmond officials say they have not been approached about the former governor’s proposal, and they are pursuing state and federal funding for their own proposed slavery museum, with plans to break ground next year.

Mr. Wilder declined the Times’s request for an interview, but in a memoir published last year he expressed optimism about the museum, writing that it could be ready by 2019, the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first African slaves in America.