SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - The U.S. National Slavery Museum was supposed to be finished in 2007, but the brainchild of former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder has yet to be built. For the last two years, a Suffolk man who donated pieces to the museum has been trying to get his possessions back.
Earlier this month, the museum filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Court documents show the museum has more than $3 million in debt.
According to Wilder, artifacts donated to the museum are being held in storage, but Therbia Parker said that's not what the former governor promised. Parker said if the museum wasn't built, Wilder was to return donated artifacts back to their owners.
Parker gave Wilder's museum 95 items from his priceless collection of over 3,000 artifacts chronicling slavery and racism in America.
"They are the joy of my life. They are a part of America's history that a lot of people are not aware of," Parker said.
Parker donated the pieces to the museum hoping to be a part of providing that awareness.
"I feel like Doug Wilder has screwed over me. I'm a little person, and he feels like you don't have to respond to me," Parker added. ""...I've written letters, and I have gotten no response...for two years."
A contract between Parker and the museum reads:
At any time if and when the U.S. National Slavery Museum ceases to exist or fails to become a reality under stated conditions, the property shall be returned to the donors and or their heirs.
"I'm very disappointed, and I'm even more disappointed they haven't honored my contract with the museum," Parker said. "This collection is bigger than I. It chronicles a bad part of our history not just black history, but American History."
At his wit's end Parker called 10 On Your Side, but our calls to Wilder have not yet been returned.
10 On Your Side also reached out to Hampton University President William R. Harvey, who has been on the museum's Board of Directors since day one.
"What do I want Dr. Harvey to do?," asked Parker. "Tell Doug Wilder to do the right thing, and return my belongings."
You might be wondering why Parker didn't wait until the museum was built before he contributed his belongings. "I became excited and I had never given it a thought before. I used the items for speaking engagements, and my own personal enjoyment. Hey, I then realized this is something I can share with the world," Parker said.
Media relations at Hampton University spoke with Dr. Harvey, and he referred us to Governor Wilder.
WAVY.com will continue to update you on this story as it develops.
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