« on: June 04, 2006, 05:44:48 PM »
Okay so, I hardly evr read BV but this was interesting. What do ya'll think?
Tell The Tale of My People
Slavery Museum Slated to Open Next Year
By Angela Bronner, AOL Black Voices
Tools of the Slave Trade
U.S. National Slavery Museum
Slave tags, shackles and a hand made chair made by a slave are all part of the permanent collection of the U.S. National Slavery Museum. The centerpiece, however, is a full-scale replica of a slave ship. The museum is slated to open in Fredericksburg, VA in 2007.
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Slavery, the most systematically brutal crime the U.S. government has ever inflicted upon human beings, may finally be having its day. No, we're not talking about reparations (though Randall Robinson intricately detailed in his book 'The Debt' just how much this country was built on the free labor of Africans). And though we are thankful for productions like 'Roots' and 'Amistad,' we do not mean its day in Hollywood.
No, this "peculiar institution" -- most peculiar because it was so heinous -- is now being acknowledged in a historically accurate tribute to the men and women who toiled for years under extremely brutal conditions.
On a 1992 trip to a slave port on Goree Island, Senegal, then-governor of Virginia, L. Douglas Wilder, had an epiphany -- to finish the story that was started on that side of the Atlantic. It was on that trip and in that place where millions of Africans were shackled and warehoused before they made the bloody sojourn across the Atlantic, that Wilder came up with the idea to erect a national slavery museum.
"It's been 400 years, hasn't it?" quips the 75-year-old mayor of Richmond, who says that 15 years isn't that long to see his idea become a reality. Wilder, who noted that Bill Clinton was vilified for asking for a national apology for slavery, says that the country has a problem in confronting the issue.
On the Pulse
"It's painful, first," says Wilder. "It's antithetical to everything youngsters are taught in school about the precepts of this nation. It's painful, it's horrible. It's embarrassing. It's dehumanizing. But it's fact."
At present, ground has been broken, a Web site put up and the difficult task of raising funds put into motion. The museum is expected to open at the end of 2007. Wilder says that the financing will come mostly from the private and corporate sector, possibly from the federal government and municipalities, and from private donations.
On Saturday, June 3, 2006, a gala event will be held in Washington DC's Warner Theatre with philanthropist and social critic Bill Cosby and actor Ben Vereen taking part. Wilder, who said he asked Cosby, expects many more high-profile African Americans to take part, once momentum begins to build.
Vereen, who starred in the ground breaking 1970s series, 'Roots,' and has a part in the upcoming Outkast musical, 'Idlewild,' is excited about his contribution to the project.
"When we did 'Roots', there was very little on the contributions of African-Americans," says Vereen. "When I was in grade school, there was only about a paragraph. Thanks to Alex Haley's fortitude, there is more information. I wanted to be a part of the continuing education."
In addition to getting the money up and the subject itself, the museum's site was a point of contention. There was first a call to have the museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC (like others such as the Vietnam Memorial and Holocaust Museum). Wilder, obviously being partial to Virginia, had talks with the cities of Jamestown (where the first slaves were brought in 1619) and then Richmond (the capital of the state) before finally coming to Fredericksburg, a city about 45 minutes away from the nation's capital.
U.S. Slavery Museum
Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP
Doug Wilder is the driving force behind the U.S. National Slavery Museum. BV Queries Him on the State of Black Politics.
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The primary reason for coming to Fredericksburg is that 38 acres of land were donated by developer, Larry Silver -- land estimated by Wilder to be worth about $20 million. Silver plans to build around the museum, however, a shopping center, restaurants and other tourist locations. This is seen as distasteful to some.
"Every museum is surrounded by something," points out Wilder. "And because we have 38 plus acres of land, it's not a matter of being crowded next to something. We'll have a slave ship inside. My final answer is to those who would criticize, nothing would satisfy them."
With a full-scale replica of a slave ship at its center (lit so that it can be seen for miles from Interstate-95), the museum will have a strong educational component as well (including lesson plans for schools), always seeking to bring humanity to slavery.
"We want to focus on slaves that people don't know about," says Dr. Vonita Foster, Executive Director of the Museum. "You hear about Harriet Tubman, you hear about Frederick Douglass, you hear about Booker T. Washington. There are so many unsung heroes that young people don't know about. We're trying to find stories that will show the perseverance and strength of slaves and the contributions that they made to America. But we also want to make sure we tell the economic impact, the political impact, the social impact."
"The nation was involved in slavery. The Civil War, was over slavery," Wilder notes. "It's about the contributions of Africans -- persons of African descent -- to the growth of the world, to the growth of America. To the building of the nation. So, if you ask why it's necessary, in the absence of the museum, where else will these youngsters get it? I tell them, you should be proud of who you are because your people have come a long way."