Powerful supporters are calling for construction of a ballpark on this historic and hallowed ground in Shockoe Bottom by suggesting that it is “mostly underdeveloped or vacant.”
While it may be true that the area today is underdeveloped, it most certainly is far from vacant.
Shockoe Bottom is full of a spirit and a history that is very much alive in the hearts nearly every American of African descent alive today.
This history remains dormant, buried under asphalt and covered by weeds, but it is one that pulses in veins of the millions of living ancestors of the men and women and children whose lives were forfeited on the auction blocks, in the slave pens and on the gallows pole that once occupied the mostly underdeveloped, vacant place. It is a history that is very much alive.
We have not forgotten. But this history has yet to receive -- and if the plans for a minor league ballpark succeed -- this history may never receive the honor and respect that it deserves.
For those unfamiliar with the historic significance of this area, let me provide a very brief synopsis. Prior to the end of the Civil War, Shockoe Bottom was one of the largest slave trade centers in the United States. In the three decades leading up to the civil war, it is estimated that nearly a half a million people were sold through the slave markets in and around Shockoe Bottom. It has been suggested that a majority of North Americans of African descent have had an ancestor who passed through this area on their way to the misery of Deep South plantations.
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. Solomon Northup, whose story was recently introduced to the world through an Oscar winning film titled “12 Years a Slave”, wrote about his experiences in Richmond after being kidnapped and sold into slavery in his memoir “Twelve Years a Slave”. I am proud to say that he is my great great great great grandfather.
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 ability to feel a sense of connection with my ancestor is unreal. I remember the first time, as a child, that I stood in the very area that my grandfather met his captors in Saratoga Springs, NY. It is my hope that I will be able to share these experiences with my future children.
The Shockoe Bottom area should provide this same opportunity to millions of Americans. The construction of a baseball stadium here will rob people of the opportunity to have this deep but unexplainable connection with their ancestors.
It also suggests that the significant slave trade history in Richmond is simply not important enough to be preserved.
I write to you today to emphatically declare that this suggestion is wrong. It is a suggestion that does a grave disservice to Americans of all creeds and colors. This is our history. It is not a place for parking lots and it is not a place for peanuts and cracker jacks. This is the story and the history of our ancestors and it is the story and history of America.
Family, please stand with me as we make it clear that building a baseball stadium atop of OUR history is unacceptable!
Linsey R. Williams
Great Great Great Great Grandaughter of Solomon Northup
This is a petition for descendants of Solomon Northup. For members of the general public who would like to support this cause, please visit https://www.change.org/petitions/city-of-richmond-mayor-dwight-c-jones-and-city-council-oppose-building-a-baseball-stadium-development-in-shockoe-bottom
Thank you for your support!
Photo Credit: Renee Moore