Protesters interrupt the mayor during a news conference Monday, while he announces a plan to move the Richmond Flying Squirrels to Shockoe Bottom. Critics say the ballpark will desecrate ground where hundreds of thousands of slave were once sold and imprisoned. (Scott Elmquist)
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — “Twelve Years a Slave” actress Lupita Nyong’o is lending her star power to the opposition to a minor league baseball stadium in what was once the center of Richmond’s thriving slave-trading center.
Nyong’o has been posting anti-stadium opinions on social media to her millions of followers, and has personally appealed to Mayor Dwight C. Jones to withdraw support of the stadium that is the centerpiece of an economic development project.
“Evidence of America’s slave history simply must be preserved, as the legacy of slavery affects all American people,” she wrote in a letter dated Oct. 19 to Jones.
In response, Jones invited Nyong’o to visit the former capital of the Confederacy to see Shockoe Bottom and plans to preserve its slave-trading past.
“Our plans show where we want to invest in that history and lift that history up for future generations to learn from,” Jones wrote.
The stadium-centered project is proposed for Shockoe Bottom, the city’s oldest neighborhood and once the bustling center of the slave-trade. By some estimates, more 300,000 men, women and children were jailed, bought and sold in the Bottom and shipped throughout the Southern states in the decades leading to the Civil War.
The stadium proposal has unleashed pent-up frustration among those who believe the city has literally buried that shameful chapter of its history. The area is now home to nightclubs, restaurants, former tobacco warehouses transformed into townhouses and parking lots.
Nyong’o has a “12 Years a Slave” connection to the neighborhood. The celebrated film depicts the life of Solomon Northrup, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. He is initially held in a Shockoe Bottom jail where slaves were chained before they were sold to growers in the Deep South.