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U.S. National Slavery Museum releases list of donors
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By PAMELA GOULD
Comedian Bill Cosby, The Silver Cos. and its chief executive officer are listed as million-dollar donors to the U.S. National Slavery Museum.
Six days after museum founder L. Douglas Wilder appeared before the Fredericksburg City Council asking that the museum be exempt from real-estate taxes, the museum released a list of its donors yesterday.
At the top of the list, in the category of gifts of $1 million and above, are three entries: The Silver Cos., Silver CEO Larry Silver, and William and Camille Cosby.
The next category, for gifts of $100,000 to $999,999, has four entries: Cosby, Larry Silver, Wachovia and Philip Morris USA.
Shiloh (Old Site) Baptist Church and Pei Partnership Architects are among 10 listed as having given between $10,000 and $99,999.
Lawrence Davies, Shiloh's pastor, a former Fredericksburg mayor and a museum board member, said his church gave $10,000 to the museum in support of the story it plans to tell.
"We felt that we wanted to support the idea of a museum that helped to set the record straight on slavery and blacks, after that, coming to full citizenship," said Davies, whose congregation is predominantly black.
Museum officials have, in the past, steadfastly avoided providing an open look into the nonprofit's finances. But yesterday morning, the museum distributed an e-mail for its spring/summer 2008 newsletter that included a 17-page list of people and businesses that have contributed gifts and in-kind donations through 2007.
Previously, museum officials said they had received $50 million in cash and pledges. But, last week, Wilder said corporate pledges fell as the economy faltered.
He cited financial constraints as a reason the museum is seeking a tax exemption.
Councilman Matt Kelly said the donor information is a "good first step" in learning more about the museum, but it falls short of what he needs to make decisions about it, including whether to support an exemption.
Kelly said he is interested in knowing how involved Wilder will be with the museum once his term as Richmond mayor ends this year. He said he also wants to be kept updated on the museum's progress.
"This is a project of a magnitude that requires very close cooperation between the city and slavery museum, and we're not there yet," he said yesterday.