Richmond Ballpark Controversy Gets Hollywood Treatment 

click to enlarge 12_years_slave.jpg

Fox Searchlight Pictures

The ongoing controversy in Richmond over Mayor Dwight Jones’ proposal to build a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom is getting some national attention from The Hollywood Reporter.

The entertainment outlet picked up the story Tuesday after a Fredericksburg woman who identifies herself as a descendent of Solomon Northup, the subject of the Oscar-winning film “12 Years a Slave,” launched a petition for family members opposed to the project.

Here’s how The Hollywood Reporter explains the conflict:

Where once stood the jail that held Solomon Northup may soon contain a state-of-the-art baseball stadium. That's if the mayor of Richmond, Va., has his way.

But descendants of Northup -- whose astounding story served as the basis for the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave -- are among those who oppose plans to develop Shockoe Bottom, a Richmond district which prior to the Civil War served as one of the country's busiest slave-trading centers. It was there that, in 1841, Northup was taken after being drugged by two vaudeville performers, later to be transported to New Orleans.

The petition, created by Linsey Williams, had 100 signatures as of midday Wednesday. Williams describes herself as a great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Northup. The Hollywood Reporter notes that it had invited Williams to join their “historic reunion of five generations of the Northup family,” but she was not able to attend.

"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," Williams told the paper. "I think it's insensitive and allowing it to become secondary to a ballpark."

Williams is scheduled to take part in an April 3 event in Shockoe Bottom organized by city activists who oppose the stadium. According to a press release sent out by the opponents on Monday, Williams will participate “in ‘Liberation Day 2014,’ a commemoration and celebration of the 149th anniversary of the liberation of Richmond by Union troops, led by Black soldiers, an event that ended some 200 years of slavery in the former capital of the Confederacy.”

The event will take place at site of Lumpkin’s Slave Jail, behind Main Street Station, at 6 p.m.

Local opponents embarked on a Twitter campaign at the beginning of the month in attempt to draw wider attention to the connection between Northup’s story and the Shockoe Bottom site of the proposed stadium.


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