A Colonial Williamsburg program that depicts the harsh treatment of slaves during Colonial times is drawing fire from black reenactors who say they deserve better treatment on the job.

Some employees have complained to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation that they feel typecast as slaves and deprived of opportunities to advance. The employees also said they are underpaid and treated insensitively, according to an article in today's Daily Press, of Newport News.

"It seems as though with each restructuring, only one black at a time is promoted," the employees said in a letter detailing their unhappiness. "This leads us to believe that those in charge of programming are afraid if they promote too many of us, they won't have any 'slaves' to make their programs successful."

A new program this year at Williamsburg called "Enslaving Virginia" places costumed reenactors in the role of slaves, with white actors playing their masters.

Williamsburg's Steve Elliott said that foundation members are committed to telling the story of slavery and that they realize it is difficult and draining for employees. He said the foundation is attempting to work things out with employees.

Several employees told the Daily Press there has been increasing unhappiness among blacks since the foundation dissolved its Department of African American Interpretations and Presentations in 1997. The department was made up mostly of black employees and devoted to teaching black Colonial history.