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Bill Cosby, entertainer, educator, philanthropist, is working with Richmond (Va.) Mayor L. Douglas Wilder to raise the $200 million needed to build and operate the proposed U.S. National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, Va. On July 17, he discussed his fund-raising and consciousness-raising efforts with Business Week senior writer Richard S. Dunham:
What is it about the National Slavery Museum that convinced you that it was a cause worthy of your support?
We need to know and understand much more about slavery and all that it has done to affect the history of this country and its people.
What message can the National Slavery Museum deliver to companies and business executives to convince them to donate money to help make the museum a reality?
It can emphasize the fact that slaves have never been repaid for the work they performed to make this country rich.
Are any particular companies or industries ripe targets because of their past connection with slavery, from cotton to tobacco to insurance?
Banks, tobacco companies, insurance companies, and textile companies are among the more vulnerable, but most American businesses are vulnerable.
You do a lot of charitable work. Do you sometimes find it harder to raise money for worthy charities that deal with sensitive or political subjects, or are fund-raising approaches similar for charities regardless of their nature?
I think that fund-raising approaches are similar regardless of the history or activities of the companies that are the targets.
Why is this museum a charitable cause that should cross racial, economic, and political lines?
It tells the story that is transracial and nonpartisan as well as one that impinges on all economic groups.