Family of ’12 Years A Slave’ author opposes Shockoe baseball stadium

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – A descendant of former slave Solomon Northup, whose memoir was brought to the big screen in “12 Years A Slave,” is speaking out against Mayor Dwight Jones’ economic development proposal to build a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom.

Linsey Williams is the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Northup.

She is petitioning Mayor Jones to end the baseball plan, in part, because she does not want a baseball stadium built on the site where Northup is believed to have spent the night, in William Goodwin’s slave pen.

“The construction of a baseball stadium here will rob people of the opportunity to have this deep but unexplainable connection with their ancestors,” Williams wrote on her blog.

According to Northup’s book, he spent the night in a slave jail in Shockoe Bottom in the spring of 1841.

Historians believe that jail site falls in the area where the proposed baseball stadium would be built.

Activist Ana Edwards is the Chair of the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project and opposes the baseball stadium plan.

She told CBS 6 Williams involvement will help her cause.

“Sometimes it’s very difficult for us to see what’s in our own backyard, and it takes people from the outside pointing it out,” Williams said.

SHOCKOE SLAVE SITEYet Delegate Delores McQuinn, who chairs the Richmond City Council Slave Trail Commission, supports the mayor’s plan and said she’s not sure Williams has enough information yet.

“I think some of her information needs to be corrected,” McQuinn said.

McQuinn said the stadium development will not touch the vast majority of the slavery sites, and, instead, will help to preserve them.

“There’s one, maybe one place that may be in the footprint of the stadium, but other than that, that’s all,” McQuinn said.

DUAL LOOK AT SHOCKOE

Despite being on opposite sides, both women hope Northup’s legacy ensures Shockoe Bottom’s slavery history is preserved.

“Why don’t we get together and do this better?” Edwards said.

“Help us to tell the story, help us to build these monuments to slavery to honor our ancestors,” McQuinn said.

Williams will be in Richmond on April 3 for “Liberation Day 2014.”

Organizers said the event will commemorate the 149th anniversary of the Liberation of Richmond by Union troops.

Williams will read Solomon Northup’s account of his night spent in a slave jail in Shockoe Bottom.

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