Doug Wilder proposes National Slavery Museum on Broad Street

Posted at 10:58 AM, May 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-08 19:08:32-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Doug Wilder wants to bring his National Slavery Museum back home to Richmond. The former Richmond mayor and Virginia governor made the announcement Thursday morning.

"I want to be a part of the neglected vision that no longer needs to be neglected," said L. Douglas Wilder, former Virginia Governor.

Wilder said his plan would be separate from Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones' vision to build a slave heritage site and baseball stadium in the city's Shockoe Bottom neighborhood.

"We are a stand alone entity.  We have never been connected.  And we are not connected now," said Wilder.

Shockoe Bottom was once an East Coast hub for the slave trade.

Wilder's museum would also go in Shockoe Bottom, specifically a site near the old Lumpkin's slave jail near 14th and Broad Streets.

Wilder said he has not spoken to Mayor Jones nor anyone on the Slave Trail Commission about his plan. He said the money the state set aside for a slavery museum should be put toward his plan.

He said he would not have to build a new structure to house the museum because the building he has in mind is in excellent condition.

The proposed location is where Richmond's first African American Baptist Church was founded.  The structure is currently owned by VCU, and Wilder said his group is in "preliminary discussions" about purchasing the building.

Wilder's previous pitch to build a slavery museum in Richmond was not met with much enthusiasm. He decided to move the project to Fredericksburg where it has been mired in fundraising, land and tax issues for more than a decade.

 "I disagree with the fact that we were driven into bankruptcy by taxes that should have never been imposed on a charitable institution," said Wilder.

And while some people may agree with Wilder, others we spoke with aren't convinced it will actually happen.

"He may have to rethink how he wants to do, what it is he wants to accomplish," Reverend Michael Thomas.

"In order for me to believe that it could happen.  I think that he would need to demonstrate with some concrete evidence that it can happen," said Lisa Thompson.

CBS 6 reached out to Mayor Dwight Jones for comment.  His press secretary, Tammy Hawley said, "there have been no formal or informal discussions with Governor Wilder about his current efforts. As he indicates, his proposal is something he needs to discuss with the State."

As for the 38 acres of land in Fredericksburg, the City Treasurer tells CBS 6, $538,000 in back taxes which includes interest, penalties and fees is still owed.  And the property is under contract by a developer who plans to build a baseball stadium for a Minor League team.

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