Black History Museums Stymied By Bankruptcy, Unresponsive Ex-Governor, Mortgage Issues
More than two decades after Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder proposed a national slavery museum, it looks to be just as much of a distant dream as it was back then.
Gov. Wilder was the nation’s first black governor. According to The Washington Post, when he took office, he proclaimed that he would make this museum a reality. A decade ago, a real estate company donated more than three dozen acres of land in Fredericksburg, VA for the project. Fundraising was supposed to be underway, the ball rolling.
Last September, the project filed for bankruptcy, not a brick has been laid and the city tried to take the land because no taxes had been paid on it. About $300,000 is owed, not to mention the $5 million owed to an architecture firm. Now that a promise to pay the taxes has gone unfulfilled, the city is trying to sell the land. And Celebrate Virginia South, an organization that wanted to use the museum as the centerpiece of its efforts to draw tourism to the area, laments the opportunities that it allowed to slip away while waiting for this museum to be built.
Based on the information provided by the Post, the project is now in turmoil and seems unlikely to come to pass. “We don’t understand what Governor Wilder is doing,” the president of Silver Cos, Jud Honaker, told the newspaper. Silver Cos has been involved in the project. “He hasn’t shown any effort to make this thing a reality since he announced it, practically. I don’t know why he keeps perpetuating this disaster of a story.”
In Minneapolis, another museum, the Minnesota African American Museum, was supposed to open on Saturday. That didn’t happen. The city has promised the museum a $1 million grant, which would go towards construction costs, but they’ve asked that they be listed atop the museum’s bank mortgage so it can recover some of its money should the museum fail. The museum’s founder, Roxanne Givens, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune via text message that it is “negotiating” with the bank. This is the third time the museum didn’t open on the appointed date.
Both of these institutions certainly don’t lack for enthusiastic support. Rather, it’s the people in charge that seem to be incapable of getting financial matters in order to bring these projects to eager audiences. Above all else, this is a real shame.