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Change made at museum
National Slavery Museum proposed in Fredericksburg will get new executive director less than year after first one was named.

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Date published: 8/14/2003

By ELIZABETH PEZZULLO

Less than a year after being appointed, Earl Yates is out as executive director of the proposed National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg.

And his successor has already been chosen.

She is Vonita Foster, who has been the director of the L. Douglas Wilder Library and Learning Resource Center at Virginia Union University in Richmond since 1989.

Wilder, the former governor, chairs the museum's board of directors.

Yates did not explain why he is being replaced.

"I was told about a month ago that they were going to make a change and that was about it," Yates said on his cell phone yesterday. "They said there were no performance concerns, just that they would make a change."

Yates said his last day on the job was Monday.

Calls to Wilder's Richmond office yesterday were not returned.

Other board members include Hampton University President William Harvey and Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert.

"We are very fortunate to have someone of Dr. Foster's professional stature join our team," Wilder said in a press statement released late yesterday afternoon.

Before she went to work at Virginia Union, Foster was the first black woman to serve on the Hanover County School Board, the first black elected president of the Virginia Independent College and University Library Association and the first black librarian at the Library of Virginia.

She also wrote a children's book based on Wilder's life, titled "The Great Little Boy Who Grew Up to be a Great Man: L. Douglas Wilder."

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I see as being a natural progression of all my work over the past 15 years," Foster said.

Conceived by Wilder over a decade ago, the slavery museum is planned for 38 acres near Interstate 95 and the Rappahannock River in the Fredericksburg portion of the Celebrate Virginia tourism development.

The project is expected to cost between $100 million and $200 million and open in 2007.

Foster holds a doctorate from Virginia Commonwealth University, two master's degrees from Atlanta University and Virginia State University and a bachelor's degree from Virginia State University.

She has served on the boards of the Poe Museum, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia and the Maymont Foundation Advisory Committee.

Foster is a member of the board of directors for the Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies. She is also on the board of the Medical College of Virginia Foundation Founding Committee-The Sickle Cell Initiative.

To reach ELIZABETH PEZZULLO: 540/374-5421 epezzullo@freelancestar.com