Niagara Movement

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Source: Wormser, R. (2002). Niagara Movement. Thirteen.Org. [Online]. Retrieved from: [Accessed Aug. 16, 2018].









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In 1905, W.E.B. Du Bois, a professor at Atlanta University, exasperated by Booker T. Washington's continued conciliatory policies towards whites and his enormous power within the black community, called for a meeting of Washington's critics of at Niagara Falls, New York. The purpose of the meeting was to form an organization that would offer a militant alternative to Washington. Du Bois called his organization the Niagara Movement, named after the falls where the first meeting was held. The group was representative of some of the intellectual elite of the African-American community. The meeting had originally been planned to take place on the American side of the falls, but the delegates were denied accommodations by racially prejudiced hotel managers. They crossed over to the Canadian side where they were welcomed and received rooms without incident. Altogether, 29 men answered Du Bois' call. Thirty others who were invited failed to make it. The Niagara Movementrenounced Booker T. Washington's policy of accommodation and conciliation, and his refusal to speak out on behalf of black rights. The group issued a manifesto that demanded the rights of black people to vote, to not be segregated in public transportation or discriminated against elsewhere, and to enjoy all those liberties white citizens enjoyed. The manifesto read in part: "We claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a freeborn American, political, civil and social; and until we get these rights we will never cease to protest and assail the ears of America. The battle we wage is not for ourselves alone but for all true Americans. It is a fight for ideals, lest this, our common fatherland, false to its founding, become in truth the land of the thief and the home of the slave -- a byword and a hissing among the nations for its sounding pretensions and pitiful accomplishment."

Despite the establishment of 30 branches and the achievements of a few scattered civil-rights victories at the local level, the movement suffered from organizational weakness and lack of funds as well as a permanent headquarters or staff. It never was able to attract mass support. Booker T. Washington undermined the movement, insuring that it received almost no publicity in the black press. After the Springfield (Illinois) Race Riot of 1908, however, white liberals joined with the nucleus of Niagara "militants" and founded the NAACP the next year. The Niagara Movement disbanded in 1911.

-- Richard Wormser

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Niagara co-founder William Monroe Trotter opposed including women in the movement.

W.E.B. Du Bois

Booker T. Washington


© 2002 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

November 13, 2023

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