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Northup’s descendants say entire community should reach consensus with ballpark

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)  - Hollywood, in a sense, has taken sides in the often-bitter battle over historic slave-related property in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom, where the mayor wants to build a new baseball stadium and other development, including a slavery museum.

Roughly 200 people gathered beside the old slave trail and Lumpkins Jail site for “Liberation Day 2014” to celebrate and commemorate the 149th anniversary of the capture of Richmond by Union troops, which effectively ended slavery in the former capital of the Confederacy..

Among those present, two descendants of a man who has recently become one of the most famous slaves in U.S. history, Solomon Northup, the subject of the Academy Award-winning movie, “12 Years A Slave.”

Linsey Williams of Fredericksburg and her cousin, Justin Dixon Northup Giliam, said Richmond should fully know what important history is buried in the ground before any digging for a ballpark is done.

“It’s surprising to me there’s a proposal for a stadium here when it has such a historic value, I think, for Richmond and the country,” Williams said.

Her cousin said he’s fine with a ballpark being built that doesn’t overshadow or destroy slave history such as the jail, gallows and burial ground.

“But let’s make sure we dig first (for history) before we start digging for baseball,” Gilliam said. “How are we going to know what’s under here if we start building a stadium on top of it.”

Some believe Solomon Northup, an educated and skilled writer and musician who was forced into slavery, spent a short time in the Bottom site, but his family believes he only passed through. “There’s no mention of it in his book,” Gilliam said.

But both he and his cousin said Northup’s story represents the devastation and death felt by so many slaves and their families in this nation, including in the slave port of Richmond.

That history, they said, must be preserved and honored.

They were invited  to participate in the event by the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality.



  • Liz

    Hollywood needs to stay right where they are – on the West Coast. This has nothing to do with them. Just a publicity stunt.

  • athynz

    I’m happy to see someone else who is high profile and has connection to this issue pushing for a public referendum and has a desire to protect the history of the area.

  • Far West Ender

    One can wonder whether Richmond has done anything right with these huge projects. But I thought of one this morning that, to me, seems like it has had some success: the Greater Richmond Convention Center. As a venue, it does not seem to have a very exciting profile. The Diamond, the Coliseum, the Mosque…these places stand out more from a distance. But the GRCC hosts plenty of cool events. So did the Arthur Ashe Center. Did they ever fix the AC problem there?

  • me

    So perplexed as to Why Richmond has been systematically Targeted.
    Alexandra VA was the largest in VA; Franklin & Armfield Slave Market.
    1711, NYC, Meal Market, Wall Street Slip at East River; population was
    6400; 1000 slaves. Mid 18th Century, 80,000 sold directly from the African Slave Factory, in Africa. per year: 40% to Caribbean Islands, 38% Brazil, 17% Spanish America; 6% US.
    Why is Richmond portrayed as The National Offender?

  • B Addy

    For the 50+ years I have lived here these people have not made a peep about this site. It has been a spot for empty 40oz bottles and bums to pee at until somebody wants to do something useful to the area. Then all of a sudden it is some magical spot that they pretend to care about????

    • Mike

      Thank you for putting this out there. Recognize and respect the past but don’t live in it.
      I think more people would visit a memorial/museum if there were an attraction.

    • Frank Smith

      You are right – these people (who are barely connected with the site) smell money, and they are probably advised by others who also smell money. To say this is a great awakening of consciousness or something like that is complete baloney and food for idealists. Wake up and smell the money folks, sadly only about ten people really care about what happens to this historic site – which will be well served by a large development.

  • Hang 10

    It is a good point that up until now nothing has been done to the site. Now all of a sudden it is of interest.
    I am not convinced the Ballpark in that area is a good idea, nor is it a bad idea. What is problematic is the way it came about and as usual anytime anyone tries to do something in Richmond it is cast in a negative light.
    How many times have you heard someone say Richmond has so much potential….

  • me2

    Richmond Government casts the negative light by their tactics,
    means, methods, maneuvers, manipulation and hidden “deals
    for donors”, bypassing city charter, residents, and tax payers, deliberately. Additionally presenting agencies and department
    that are dysfunctional, failing, scandalizing government with irresponsible Executives as Public Servants with City Council
    willfully complicit and compliant. Richmond has to be run by
    outside operatives; councils, committees, commissions,
    set up studies. and Consortium(s) Rule through party cohorts..

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