Did you know a proposed plan to build a $170 million 'Slave Ship' museum in New Orleans has been presented to City Council there? [Slave ship museum proposed for riverfront site, New Orleans Times Picayune, 9-12-13]:
Twelve years after community activist and amateur historian Lloyd Lazard first presented the vague concept of a slave ship museum in New Orleans to the City Council, he appeared once again before the Economic Development and Special Projects Committee on Tuesday (Sept. 10) with a 58-page proposal drafted by architect Clifton James, a financial analysis and a chosen location.
All he needs now is $170 million to build it.
Rendering of the proposed museum [National Slave Ship Museum Proposed for Lower Garden District Riverfront, Uptown Messenger, 9-13-13]
Lazard's vision for the museum, which would potentially be part of the city's Riverfront Redevelopment Plan, includes a life-size interactive slave ship built inside a new five-story building at the Celeste Street wharf. There would also be a fully functioning replica slave ship that would sail to Natchez, Miss., and Scott's Bluff in Baton Rouge where Southern University is located.
Inside the museum, the plan crafted by James includes a restaurant serving African, Creole and Caribbean food, a DNA lab to help people discover their roots, exhibits, meeting spaces and an herb and vegetable garden. Outside there would be a riverfront park with an amphitheater for live performances as well as two replica African villages.
James said in his presentation he would create ties to the local universities and use the museum to create educational opportunities for people of all ages.
Lazard also envisions a sister museum in Jackson, Miss., and has the support of Jackson Councilman Chokwe Lumumba who is supposed to present a resolution before that City Council supporting the construction of the project.
James estimated the museum would attract more than 225,000 visitors per year and have an annual economic impact of $100 million. The National World War II Museum attracts 400,000 people each year and has an economic impact of $100 million.
The annual operating costs are estimated to be $15 million, with $20 million in revenue, leaving $5 million for improvements, scholarships and other educational ventures. Construction is expected to take three years.
James compared the slave ship museum, which would cost $170 million and take three years to build, to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati that cost $110 million with 60 percent of the cost raised through a national campaign. Funding for the slave ship museum would come primarily from private, corporate and philanthropic sources with some public resources, James said.
Lazard said he first came up with the idea in 1996 and began lobbying officials at all levels of government. Five years later the U.S. Department of the Interior said the museum was a good match for the Lower Mississippi Delta Region Initiative, a program enacted in 1994 to find ways to preserve the natural, cultural, and recreational resources of this region.
Lazard received a $25,000 grant in 2005 from the National Park Service for a preliminary feasibility study created by James and the Urban League of Greater New Orleans but Hurricane Katrina put the brakes on the project.
Now that he has a fully realized proposal Lazard and James hope to begin raising money and support for the project.
Dr. Norman Francis, president of Xavier University, spoke in support of the slave ship museum at Tuesday's meeting and said Lazard's greatest assets in pushing this forward have been his patience and tenacity.
"There's an old saying about an entrepreneur. It's somebody who has an idea who doesn't worry about where the resources are going to come from. He works on the idea," Francis said. "The people who believe in (the museum) like Mr. Lazard will stay with it. It's not going to be easy. Money is not easy to come by but the idea lives."
Slavery began in the U.S. in the 1600s with the first African slaves arriving in Louisiana in 1710. The U.S. Congress banned the legal importation of slaves in 1808 but slavery continued in New Orleans for another 54 years.
"The story we have to tell the most is what part the slaves played in the building of this city," Clarkson said. "No one knows how much of this city was built by the skilled slaves and free men of color. We've never played up that history."Why don't we play up the history of what freed blacks did to Detroit?
Or Gary (Indiana)?
What about Memphis?