- Associated Press - Friday, April 4, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Descendants of the principal character in the Oscar-winning movie “12 Years a Slave” attended a rally by opponents of a proposed minor league baseball stadium in a Richmond neighborhood that once was a major slave trading hub.

Linsey Williams and Justin Dixon Northup Gilliam, the great-great-great-great grandchildren of Solomon Northup, read Thursday from their ancestor’s account of his experience at the Shockoe Bottom slave jail where he was held in 1841. Northup, a free man kidnapped into slavery, wrote a book about his ordeal, which includes a passage about being brought to Richmond before being shipped to New Orleans.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/OhlpT3 ), the rally was timed to coincide with the 149th anniversary of Liberation Day, when Richmond fell to Union troops. About 200 people attended.

At Lumpkin’s Jail, a notorious slave-trading site, activists held a “libation ceremony” in which drinks were poured onto the ground to honor ancestral spirits and read accounts of the opening of slave jails.

“Today, we are gathered to reclaim Richmond,” said Ana Edwards, chair of the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project of the Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality. “We are gathered to reclaim resistance.”

Williams, a 27-year-old school psychologist who lives in Fredericksburg, said she learned of the plans for Thursday’s event on Facebook. She said she learned of her relation to Northup when she was about 10 and on a family trip to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where Northup lived before his enslavement.

In his book, Northup wrote that he was taken to “Goodin’s” jail, which many believe was a misspelling of “Goodwin.” William Goodwin and Henry Templeman advertised in 1834 that they were “prepared to take slaves for safe-keeping” at an establishment in Richmond.

In addition to the stadium and other private development, Jones has called for a pavilion at Lumpkin’s, a slavery museum and improvements to the Richmond Slave Trail and the African burial ground.

Some have suggested that the development plan offers the best opportunity for a proper commemoration of black history.

“You need a platform. And the stadium is the platform,” said Darrell Benton, a Shockoe Bottom resident who happened upon the rally.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com

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