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Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center: Black History Month starts with ‘We Are Here’ speaker series

By January 27, 2023Turning Heads

Josh Poole will speak about ‘The Global Underground Railroad: How Enslaved People Communicated Resistance and Sought Freedom Across the World’

On Wednesday, Jan. 25, the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is kicking off its “We Are Here” speaker series with presenter Josh Poole. Poole’s topic is “The Global Underground Railroad: How Enslaved People Communicated Resistance and Sought Freedom Across the World.”

This event is a prelude to Black History Month and the events at the Niagara Falls Heritage Center that begin on Feb. 1. Poole’s presentation will begin at 7 p.m., and will also be available via Zoom. Click here for the purchase link.

A press release promoting the event stated, “In a world of enslavement, communication was an act of resistance. As enslavers attempted to assert complete control over enslaved people and isolate them from not only their homes and their families, but also networks of information, communication was a way to resist oppression and maintain some autonomy.

“In the U.S., we are traditionally taught about the Underground Railroad in the context of the North and the South. Still, freedom-seekers worldwide formed networks of communication and organized resistance. For example, enslaved people in the South had connections to freedom-seekers in Niagara Falls to aid them in their escape. In addition, they connected to communication networks that spanned the Caribbean, South America, and the West Indies.

“In this presentation, speaker Josh Poole will look closely at how information was passed amongst enslaved people in the Atlantic World from revolts, maritime travel, and the Underground Railroad. We will also look at how this history has been taught and understood in American history books, contributing to our understanding of organized resistance.”

Poole is a visitor experience specialist at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. Originally from Pendleton, he graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a BA in history, focusing on African American and women’s history.

According to Poole, his education in Black history was neglected until college, which led him to choose his primary focus, the study of African American history. Poole’s upcoming speaking event at the heritage center is inspired by one of the classes he studied in college, “Slave Rebellion & Resistance in the Atlantic World.” Poole said his presentation will be a mixture of credited information from contemporary scholars and his own research.

Poole earned the Emerging Scholars Paper Prize from the history department for his essay “The Civil Rights Movement and the Ordinary Person.” In addition, he has written extensively on the Reconstruction period, studied Black women in the labor force, and studied contemporary Black history in depth, covering multiple avenues.

More Events

Upcoming presentations in the speaker series include:

√ “The Power of Voting: Why YOU Should Vote”: Join at 7 p.m. Feb. 1. The press release stated, “ ‘Illuminating Voices’ is our theme for this year’s Black History Month. Please welcome the Heritage Center’s very own Jasiah Jackson in ‘The Power of Voting: Why YOU Should Vote.’ A presentation on the importance of voting and how it affects a community. It will also touch on the history of voting, voter suppression and how that can be an attack on BIPOC communities.” (Location: Atrium; 825 Depot Ave. W., Niagara Falls. Event link: here.)

√ “Continuity of Care in the 21st Century”: This is “an interactive presentation focusing on building consistent relationships between our learning institutions and families, and the importance of using culturally relevant teaching practices to meet the needs of children where they are. It takes place at 7 p.m. Feb. 8. (Location: Atrium; 825 Depot Ave. W., Niagara Falls. Event link: here.)

√ “Stories of Our Resilience”: The press release stated, “In this conversation, professor Ponzo will discuss information associated with the lives of those who have shaped not only the history of the African diaspora, but have impacted the world. Drawing on the theme of ‘We Are Still Here,’ he will be focusing on the transformative events that shaped the lives of well-known members of the diaspora here in America, and how they overcame and left a legacy that we still celebrate today.” This event is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 15. It is a hybrid activity, with tickets at $8 for singles, $12 for couples or $25 for families. (Location: Atrium. Event link: here.)

√ “Restore, Reclaim, and Reform Black Midwifery Virtual Presentation”: At 7 p.m. Feb. 22, join in for “this empowering Black History Month virtual presentation, ‘Restore, Reclaim, and Reform Black Midwifery,’ by The Counseling Midwife Barbara Verneus.

“Did you know there are only 2% Black certified professional midwives and 6% Black certified nurse midwives? Did you know out of the 384 birth centers in the United States, that only about 12 are Black-owned? When we speak of the maternal mortality rate, it refers to deaths due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth, and most of those deaths are happening to Black mothers versus their white counterparts (at four times the rate). So, what are some solutions?

“In ‘Restore, Reclaim, and Reform Black Midwifery,’ Barbara Verneus will share some realistic ways we can participate in further protecting one of the oldest professions/vocations on the planet.”

The presenter will be on Zoom-hybrid event. Tickets are $8 for singles, $12 for couples or $25 for families. Location: Atrium. Event link: here.)

About the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

The mission of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is to reveal authentic stories of Underground Railroad freedom-seekers and abolitionists in Niagara Falls; to inspire visitors to recognize modern injustices that stem from slavery; and to take action toward an equitable society. The Heritage Center is an experiential museum operating every Thursday through Sunday during the winter season. It offers self-guided tours, facilitated guided tours, school field trips, and numerous public programs throughout the year.


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