Niagara Falls resident Saladin Quanaah Allah, who goes by the mononym “Saladin,” is the third-great grandson of famed underground railroad freedom seeker Josiah Henson; whose life served as the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Last month, CBC’s “The Nature of Things With David Suzuki” featured Saladin as a historical expert and guest host alongside new co-host Anthony Morgan. The episode, titled “Secret Agents of the Underground Railroad,” was produced by Quebec based company Attraction and filmed in Saladin’s hometown Niagara Falls, NY. The episode focused on the historic hotel called “The Cataract House,” which, due to its close proximity to the Canadian border, was a popular stop for freedom seekers along the Underground Railroad.
Stories abound of Harriet Tubman leading many enslaved people to freedom across the suspension bridge between Niagara Falls, NY and Niagara Falls, Ontario. Lesser known are the stories of Cataract House staff who were secretly assisting enslaved people to board a rowboat at the foot of the American Falls.across the Niagara River. This operation lasted for decades and was so well organized, it plays out like a spy novel. Only a small fraction of these stories were featured in the CBC documentary.
With the success of “Secret Agents of the Underground Railroad,” Saladin is currently finishing his treatment based on the Cataract House. Says Saladin, “It is important for me to honor our ancestors by keeping the story historically accurate. Several companies have already shown interest in producing this as a full-fledged series or feature, but as of right now there are no official commitments.” Saladin is a prolific writer and storyteller who has published twenty three books, five of which are chronicled in the British Library. As an expert on the Cataract House and the Underground Railroad, Saladin has been featured in documentaries such as the award-winning docuseries “Enslaved,” narrated by Samuel L. Jackson; and the IMAX film “Into America’s Wild,” narrated by Morgan Freeman. Additionally, Saladin recently co-produced the documentary “Two Wars: The Road to Integration.” When he isn’t writing or being interviewed, Saladin can be found speaking to the United Nations and is the Director of Community Engagement at the Underground Railroad Museum in Niagara Falls, NY.
Abraham Lincoln utilized “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” as a key speaking point in his campaign for the oval office; Lincoln also drew directly from the literature while writing the Emancipation Proclamation. Says Saladin, “It is no secret who my third-great grandfather was, and how his life story came to impact the end of slavery.” Josiah Henson helped lay the tracks for the Underground Railroad, and for future underground railroad operatives such as Harriet Tubman.