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Contributor to National Slavery Museum wants his artifacts returned, can't get a response from museum officials
Marva and Therbia Parker Sr. want items back from the National Slavery Museum.
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By KELLY HANNON
Therbia Parker Sr. looked forward to the day he would walk inside the finished U.S. National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg and see the artifacts he donated among the exhibits.
Parker, 62, and his wife, Marva, of Suffolk gave the museum leg and wrist shackles that once restrained slaves. They donated 19th-century newspaper articles and posters advertising slaves for sale. They handed over a first-edition "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Those were among 95 items the Parkers turned over to the museum in September 2004, acquisitions from years of visiting East Coast antiques stores. Parker estimates the collective value of the artifacts, if they chose to sell them, would be about $75,000.
A deed of gift from the National Slavery Museum outlines the terms of the donation. If the museum ceases to exist or fails to become a reality under stated conditions, the gift reverts to the Parkers.
As the years passed and their artifacts were kept out of public view, Parker grew concerned.
Early in 2010, with no museum under construction, he tried to contact the museum's leaders to learn where his donated items were being kept.
In a February 2010 e-mail to Parker, former National Slavery Museum Executive Director Vonita Foster said she had resigned her position, and was unaware of the status of the museum.
She referred Parker to the museum's founder and chairman of its board of directors, former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder. She gave him Wilder's contact information at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he is an adjunct professor.
Parker said his attempts to reach Wilder by certified letter and phone in the past year were unsuccessful.
So when he saw news reports that the city of Fredericksburg was starting the process of selling the museum's 38-acre property in Celebrate Virginia to collect more than $147,000 in back taxes, unpaid since 2008, Parker decided to go public to find his collection.
"If they get their taxes back, I want my artifacts back," Parker said.
He said he's disappointed the museum has not come to fruition.
"Our hopes for the museum were heartfelt," the Parkers wrote in a March 4, 2010, letter to Wilder. "The Black Memorabilia items in your possession were placed in your care in good faith."