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Solomon Northup's descendants oppose development of slave jail site

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Mar 26, 2014 | 8:36am EDT

Descendants of the man whose story inspired Oscar-winning movie 12 Years A Slave are fighting plans to build a baseball stadium on the site of a jail where Solomon Northup was housed during his ordeal. The film, which won three Academy Awards including Best Picture earlier this month (Mar14), tells the story of a free man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841, and is based on Northup's 1853 memoir of the same name. Northup was held at a slave prison in Shockoe Bottom in Richmond, Virginia following his kidnap and the site where the notorious Lumpkin's Jail once stood is set to be redeveloped as part of a new baseball stadium complex. Money has been set aside to create a museum close by, while nearby slave burial grounds will be unaffected, but local history experts claim many important sites will be destroyed. The plans have also angered descendants of Northup, including his great-great-great-great-granddaughter Linsey Williams, who has launched a petition on Charge.org calling for the jail site to be preserved. She writes in a message posted on the website, "The Shockoe Bottom area is important to me, not just because of the incredible historical significance it holds for our nation, but also because of the personal significance it holds for my family... I cannot express in words how it feels to have the opportunity to stand in the same area that my grandfather described in his memoir... "The construction of a baseball stadium here will rob people of the opportunity to have this deep but unexplainable (sic) connection with their ancestors. It also suggests that the significant slave trade history in Richmond is simply not important enough to be preserved... This is our history. It is not a place for parking lots and it is not a place for peanuts and cracker jacks... Building a baseball stadium atop of our history is unacceptable!" A protest against the stadium plans has been scheduled at the site on 3 April (14).

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