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Entertainer Bill Cosby and former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder are expected for a U.S. National Slavery Museum event on Friday
Date published: 9/18/2004
By PAMELA GOULD
Entertainer Bill Cosby is visiting Fredericksburg next week, and may be leaving behind a sizable contribution to the U.S. National Slavery Museum.
Cosby, a well-known philanthropist and one of seven members of the museum's board, is expected to speak at the University of Mary Washington Friday as part of what museum officials are calling a "gala reception."
Sources told The Free Lance-Star that Cosby may announce plans to donate about $1 million to the museum--an amount one person described as the equivalent of 10 performance fees. Cosby's spokesman was trying to reach the entertainer yesterday and was unable to confirm the visit.
Museum officials sent out about 200 invitations for the gala, and 120 to 150 people are expected to attend, university spokeswoman Margaret Mock said.
Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the museum's founder and chairman, is expected to speak, as are architect Chien Chung Pei, UMW President William Anderson and Fredericksburg Mayor Tom Tomzak.
Tomzak said the slavery museum can boost tourism in the city.
"I think this country strongly needs a slavery museum. I've felt that way for years," he said. "I think it will be a great thing to help us deal with the issues we finally need to deal with and move on."
Friday's event will begin with a private dinner in Seacobeck Hall for the museum's board of directors and advisory board. The gala starts at 7 p.m. in Seacobeck and will eventually move next door to the Ridderhof Martin Gallery, where the museum's first major exhibition opened Aug. 23.
Galleries Director Tom Somma said several celebrities--including actor Will Smith, former basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson and talk-show host Oprah Winfrey--have been invited, but he didn't know if any would attend.
He said planning began a year ago for the event, which is viewed as an opportunity for the board and people who have already committed financial support to get their first look at the museum's current collection.
The exhibit, "Reflections on American Slavery: Selected Objects From the Collections of the United States National Slavery Museum," runs through Oct. 8.
Somma said 596 people had visited the exhibit as of Wednesday, and several groups are still scheduled to attend. He also said that schools have begun scheduling field trips to the gallery.