The Niagara Movement of the 20th Century

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At the dawn of the 20th century, African Americans held their first assembly to advance their position in the United States: The Niagra Movement.  Among those in attendance were W.E.B. Du Bois, William Trotter, and Ida B. Wells.  The group’s vision set a standard for inclusion and equality that would eventually be upheld by its successor, the NAACP.

In 1905, after witnessing the blatant segregation and racism that dominated the south while attending Fisk University in Tennessee, W.E.B. Du Bois sought to form a group of like-minded intellectuals and professionals that would seek empowerment and equality for black Americans.  Combining his efforts with those of William Trotter, the pair faced tribulation from the start.  After being denied service at hotels in Buffalo, the organizers settled on Niagara Falls as the place to hold its first meeting, even deciding to name their movement after the place where they first found refuge for their discussions and planning.

The group quickly faced opposition, opposing the unofficial representative of the black race at the time: Booker T. Washington.  The group rejected the Accommodationism he advocated, rebuffing any suggestion that blacks settle for less than the full equality guaranteed by the 14th amendment.  Trotter and Du Bois had both publicly opposed Washington’s philosophy of permitting blacks to remain inferior and subservient to whites.  Their two dozen plus fellows agreed, writing into the Niagara’s principles a statement to the effect of demanding blacks reject any impression or implication of their inferiority or submission. This was not wholly popular with either black or white communities.

The group’s primary goal of attempting to bring about legal change was largely unsuccessful despite growing its membership to stretch across 34 states by 1906.  However, as the group’s voices grew they found opportunity in the tragedy of the Springfield Riots of 1908.  The event’s status as the first northern race riot in 40 years, as well as having taken place in the hometown of Abraham Lincoln, served as a wake-up call to many racial equality advocates and birthed a new, this time interracial movement to demand change in the United States: the NAACP.

Read more of the original article on at

Sources: Staff. “Niagara Movement.” A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 17 May 2017.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


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