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More talk about Slavery Museum
The Virginian-Pilot writes in an editorial today that Fredericksburg’s Celebrate Virginia "was never an appropriate setting for a national museum devoted to telling the story of slavery." The editorial repeats a claim you’ve read here before, that Fort Monroe would be the most appropriate site for such a museum in Virginia, if Doug Wilder still intends to build one. (Oh yeah, and Wilder’s not calling them back, either.)
Here is what the editorial board says about why Fort Monroe would be appropriate:
The first enslaved Africans arrived in the British colonies in 1619, when a ship stopped at Old Point Comfort – as the fort’s peninsula was then known – to trade slaves for supplies. A series of forts was built there with slave labor, and the peninsula later served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
But the most significant chapter in the fort’s history involves three slaves – Frank Baker, Sheppard Mallory and James Townsend – who fled to the Union-held fort early in the Civil War.
A Union general declared the men "contraband" of war and refused to return them, prompting thousands more to flow into "Freedom’s Fortress." From those fugitives, some of the Union’s first black regiments were formed. The general’s decision, in many ways, set the stage for Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Gerri Hollins, a descendant of the refugees and president of the Contraband Historical Society, calls the fort "our Ellis Island."
Richmond’s "River District News" blog has another discussion going here about recent coverage of the museum.
In other news, I have now had one call and one e-mail from people who are seriously concerned about what will become of the artifacts that were donated to the museum, many by families. Where are they? Who is taking care of them? What will happen to them? One donor said he wants to try to find out how to get items he donated back. I wasn’t in Fredericksburg when the museum started taking donations, but if anyone out there is familiar with what kinds of documents or agreements families that donated signed, I’d be interested in talking to you.