Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 26, 2013

BRADBERRY: Niagara's Heritage: Beyond, race, borders

Niagara Gazette — As this month draws to a close we are, hopefully one year closer to ending “Black History Month” as we know it and one year closer to fully integrating all of America’s history into a collection of stories that more truthfully defines our heritage and more fairly sets the course for our future.

But the nationwide events commemorating the150th year anniversary of the American Civil War gives us good reason to reflect on how we got to where we are today and an opportunity to review the role that Niagara Falls and vicinity played in forging the framework of modern America.

Like them or not, the release last year of Quentin Tarantino’s Golden Globe and Academy Award winning albeit, controversial movie “Django Unchained” and Steven Spielberg’s revealing historical drama, “Lincoln” both attempt to portray the agony that the country suffered as the world confronted the evils of that wicked institution of slavery and the scourge of racism.

Published almost simultaneously with the release of the movies, a number of very important and, by the way, very readable and good books emerged, one by Henry Wiencek “Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves” and another by Fergus M. Bordewich, “America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union.”

Both books by men who have spent a great deal of their careers researching, documenting and publishing books about the conflicts that led up to the Civil War and the eventual end of slavery emphasize in their work, the high degree of trust, respect, cooperation and collusion among people of diverse cultures and between the races in order to accomplish what they all agreed was paramount, that “all men are created equal” despite their differences.

Meanwhile, here in Niagara Falls, at almost the same time that the movies and books were being released and published, research for the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area focusing on the people, places, and stories in and around the City of Niagara Falls that illuminate our historical role in the Underground Railroad was also published.

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