Mayor's Plan: Turn 12 Years a Slave Site Into Stadium

Solomon Northup's family opposes the ballpark plan

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 26, 2014 2:20 PM CDT

(Newser) – Solomon Northup, the subject of 12 Years a Slave, was held in a slave jail in Shockoe Bottom, once one of the busiest slave-trading districts in the country ... and now the mayor of Richmond, Va., where the site is located, wants to turn it into a baseball stadium. Descendants of Northup, not surprisingly, oppose the plan. "Most people of African descent in North America have had ancestors who came through that area as they were being sold to slave masters in the South," Northup's great-great-great-great-granddaughter tells the Hollywood Reporter. "I think it's insensitive and allowing it to become secondary to a ballpark."

The site once known as "the Devil's half-acre," which was once home to more than 90 slave dealers and Lumpkin's slave jail, is now just a number of asphalt lots and grasslands near the Shockoe Creek, making it undesirable for construction. Mayor Dwight Jones wants to inject new life into the area, hence the idea for a $56 million park to be used by a local minor league team—and that would require the destruction of dozens of slave-trading sites. A historical researcher points out that artifacts could also be buried on the site. A $5 million slavery museum would also be built nearby, and the slave burial grounds at the site would not be affected. Northup's family has started an online petition, and a protest will be held at the site of the slave jail next month; a decision is expected in May.

An opponent of the ball park idea addresses a press conference in front of City Hall in Richmond in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bob Brown)
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