Dreams for National Slavery Museum caught in bankruptcy

Cosby declined comment through his agent, and officials listed on the museum's 2007 tax return either would not discuss the bankruptcy or could not be reached.

Mae Tarver's husband Willie, an artist and Korean War veteran, donated a steel sculpture he created of a slave market to the museum before he died last year. Now the 78-year-old Wadley, Georgia widow wants museum directors to authorize payment for the piece or give it back.

"If they're not going to have the museum, they can still have it, but just pay me for it," she said. "If not, I would like for it to be returned."

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy protects applicants from creditors' lawsuits while a court-approved reorganization plan is developed, suggesting museum directors wish to regroup and press ahead with the project.

But city Treasurer Hanley thinks the dream for the Fredericksburg site is dead. He expects the land will be sold and the city will get its tax money, though he said people would "still be delighted" if Wilder could get the project back on its feet.

Joseph Miller, a University of Virginia history professor and slavery expert, said a museum on the history of slavery would offer an important contribution to the national culture.

"I think that it's an important step in moving beyond the divisions that we still inherit from slavery," he said.

"I think that until you put something up front, and people can talk their way through -- however painful that may be -- that it's very hard to move on."

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)

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