Niagara Falls, NY, is not only a place of natural wonder, it also a central location in the history of African American resistance to slavery and discrimination. During the 19th century, Niagara Falls was one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad – a network of secret routes and safe houses that allowed enslaved African Americans to escape into free states and Canada. This episode of Global Lens examines the pivotal role of the Underground Railroad in establishing African American resistance, and celebrates the courage of those who risked their lives to help others escape, including the legendary Harriet Tubman.

Our lead character is educator, author and human rights advocate Saladin Allah, a descendent of Underground Railroad forerunner Josiah Henson, whose life was the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. As a visitor experience specialist at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, Saladin is an expert storyteller who takes us on an unforgettable journey through African American history, and reminds us that we all play a role in shaping the next generation. Only through education and historical truth-telling can we achieve a recognition of past wrongdoing, and work toward a more just world.

There are around 200 million people identifying themselves as being of African descent live in the Americas. Many millions more live in other parts of the world, outside of the African continent.

Whether as descendants of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade or as more recent migrants, they constitute some of the poorest and most marginalized groups. Studies and findings by international and national bodies demonstrate that people of African descent still have limited access to quality education, health services, housing and social security.

In many cases, their situation remains largely invisible, and insufficient recognition and respect has been given to the efforts of people of African descent to seek redress for their present condition. They all too often experience discrimination in their access to justice, and face alarmingly high rates of police violence, together with racial profiling.

The United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 68/237 to be observed from 2015 to 2024, provides a solid framework for the United Nations, Member States, civil society and all other relevant actors to join together with people of African descent and take effective measures for the implementation of the programme of activities in the spirit of recognition, justice and development.