NAACP: Tell ‘whole story’ of the Confederacy

members not unreceptive to Confederate museum in the area
Date published: 3/9/2008

The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond may have found more support for a facility in Spotsylvania County to house artifacts with local ties.

Spotsylvania’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hasn’t endorsed the museum, but some members said last week they would support the plan if it tells the “whole story.”

“We are going to tell the full American story,” said Museum of the Confederacy President Waite Rawls.

In September, Rawls announced his vision of a system of four museums in Virginia, including one at or near the Chancellorsville battlefield.

The museum in Richmond is dwarfed by the adjacent Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. Attendance is down nearly 50 percent.

The White House of the Confederacy and the museum’s administration headquarters, research center and library would remain in Richmond. The other two proposed sites are Appomattox Court House National Park and Fort Monroe in Hampton.

Rawls has met with local Rotary Club members, Confederacy museum members in the region and the Chamber of Commerce. On Thursday, he met with the NAACP at Mount Hope Baptist Church. About 50 people attended, along with five Spotsylvania supervisors.

“What we are looking for is balance,” said NAACP member Col. Horace McCaskill. “We’re not adverse to learning about the Confederacy side, but we want the whole story to be told, and we need to understand that.”

The “whole story” means “all cultures involved in the Civil War,” including the roles of free and enslaved blacks and Americans Indian, he said.

Rawls said the Museum of the Confederacy has unique artifacts that “will bring the human face to what happened on those [battle] fields.” His plans call for 8,000-square-foot buildings with about 5,000 square feet for exhibits. Each site would cost an estimated $5 million. He said he wants 1,000 square feet for a community room in each facility.

“One of the things I would love to have in the Museum of the Confederacy here is an NAACP meeting. It would send a signal to all Americans of what we are all about,” he said.

Rawls said the museum would be an economic boon by attracting more tourists. He is talking with private donors and may not launch a full capital campaign for a year, he said. He hopes to have a Spotsylvania museum open by 2012.

NAACP members asked how the museum would be financed, what exhibits it would have, how the stories would be told and whether any of the content would duplicate what is already in the county.

“If it improves what we currently have here, from the standpoint of visitors coming in, I think it would be of some benefit to the county,” said local activist Richard Toye.

Layton Fairchild, a former candidate for the Board of Supervisors, said people want to know the truth about the war.

“There are a lot of stereotypes on both sides, the white side of history and the black side of history,” he said. “If we had an institution come in and say ‘This is how it happened and let’s get educated,’ I think that is the most important thing.”

Cleo Coleman, a history buff whose great-grandfather was a free black, said the name of the museum does not bother her.

“But I am certainly aware of the fact that it has some negative connotations for people, and I am not sure how we bridge that,” she said.

Copyright 2008, The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. of Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA –

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