Niagara Gazette

Columns

October 16, 2012

BRADBERRY: Tesla, Tubman and we deserve better

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — In fact, as they proudly boast on their internet site, the Tesla Society of New York declares, “Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse built the first hydro-electric power plant in 1895 in Niagara Falls and started the electrification of the world.”

They also quote Tesla’s words spoken Jan. 12, 1897, at the facility’s opening ceremony, so profound, they bear repeating in part:

"We have many a monument of past ages; we have the palaces and pyramids, the temples of the Greek and the cathedrals of Christendom. In them is exemplified the power of men, the greatness of nations, the love of art and religious devotion. But the monument at Niagara has something of its own, more in accord with our present thoughts and tendencies. It is a monument worthy of our scientific age, a true monument of enlightenment and of peace. It signifies the subjugation of natural forces to the service of man, the discontinuance of barbarous methods, the relieving of millions from want and suffering."

Fortunately, at least one of the historically important original buildings, part of the 1895 power plant still stands and is in safe hands, though in desperate need of protection and restoration, and the towering statue of Tesla at Goat Island, a 1976 gift of Yugoslavia to the United States by Croatian sculptor Frane Krsinic, likewise stands in serious need of care and maintenance.

Now that the most important historical research and documentation of the role that Tubman and others whom she no doubt inspired played here in the development and ultimate success of the Underground Railroad can finally be laid to rest, much still needs to be done to commemorate and celebrate her and their contributions to the international efforts to end slavery world-wide.

The fact that Tubman crossed into Canada from what is now the City of Niagara Falls with fugitives from that wretched institution, and that remnants from the original bridge are still standing, supporting the new bridge that replaced the original, is reason enough to treasure the place where she stepped into history.

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