August 20, 2012; Source: Fredericksburg.com
Eight years ago, Therbia Parker, Sr. donated close to 100 artifacts to the Fredericksburg, Va. nonprofit seeking to establish the U.S. National Slavery Museum, but now he wants them back. The museum remains unbuilt and the nonprofit was in court last week to file for bankruptcy but, at the organization’s request, the judge dismissed the case, providing the nonprofit some extra time to work out a reorganization. Among other debts, the nonprofit owes $300,000 in taxes to the city of Fredericksburg and a $5 million debt to a group of architects, though the museum asserts that it has an anonymous donor poised to help it pay its tax debt. The museum nonprofit also lost its tax-exempt status earlier this year but that has reportedly been reinstated.
The proposed museum is a project of former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, who blames the museum’s stalled progress on the economy. Thirty-eight acres of land has been donated to the proposed museum a decade ago and a it was to have been an anchor for a larger tourism development, but after years of no construction, donors began to lose interest and the proposed museum’s director quite in 2009, alleging that Wilder wouldn’t so much as speak with her. Reports Fredericksburg.com, “Wilder appeared at a city council meeting to ask for a tax exemption, which wasn’t granted. After that, the city’s tax bills went unpaid, and city officials’ contact with Wilder ceased. By last summer, the project’s architect, Pei Partnership Architects, had a court judgment against the museum for unpaid bills. And the city was moving to auction off the museum’s 38 acres—now overgrown with briars and weeds…to recoup the tax debt.”
That is why the museum nonprofit filed for bankruptcy, but it is still interested in potentially selling some of the 38 acres. The land, however, may or may not (a matter of significant dispute) have restrictive covenants placed on it which would likely have to be lifted for a sale to take place.
No wonder Parker has become a non-believer. He wants his collection back so he can donate it somewhere where it will, in fact, be shared with the public. –Ruth McCambridge