BY WALTER OPINDE
The Niagara Movement was an African-American civil rights organization formed by a group of blacks led by Mr. W. B. E. Du Bois and Mr. William Trotter Monroe in July 1905. After the denial of their admittance to the hotels in Buffalo, New York, a group of 29 African-Americans that include business owners, clergy, and teachers gathered at the Niagara Falls to discuss and find a civil solution to the oppressive problems through social and political changes. The name of the civil rights organization was thereby derived from the name of the location of its first members’ meeting. The group’s enlisted demands or grievances included the stoppage of discrimination and racial segregation in unions, public accommodation, and at the courts during legal procedures.
The organization endeavored to bring change, with the primary aim of addressing the economic, health, religious, educational, and criminal issues. It stood out and spoke for other civil rights organizations of its time since it was powerful enough to raise unequivocal demands for equal human rights. The movement forcefully demanded an equal and fair educational and economic opportunity. It further supported the voting and participation of both black men and women in the U.S. politics of the time. Through its call for the end of social segregation and advocacy for the condemnation of racial discrimination, the Niagara Movement sent very powerful messages to the entire U.S. and its administration.
The Niagara Movement grew successfully to include more than 170 members from about 35 states by the dawn of 1906. However, the movement encountered particular difficulties by 1907 when Du Bois declared his support for the inclusion of women, which was a contrary opinion to that of Mr. Trotter who was against this idea of women’s inclusion in the Niagara. Consequently, Monroe Trotter fell out and withdrew his membership to the movement by 1908, thereby starting his new group, which he named the “Negro American Political League.”
The movement’s members continued to meet annually until 1908 when a major race-based riot began in Springfield, Illinois. During the riots, eight African-Americans lost their lives and more than 200 other had no option but to flee from the city. This marked a symbolic historical record since these were the first northern-race riots since the past four decades. Due to the fact that the riots occurred in Abraham Lincoln’s hometown, both the black and white activists felt powerful in their own view; hence, there was an urgent need for the establishment of an interracial organization in order to eradicate racism.
Even though the Niagara Movement’s grievances did not bear the anticipated fruits and had very little impact on the legislative procedures, legal actions and the popular opinion, its advocacy resulted in the formation of the NAACP by 1909. This was the National Association for Advancement of Colored People, whose first director of publicity, research, and journal editor was Mr. Du Bois. The association adopted almost all similar goals to those of the Niagara Movement.
“Read more of the original story from: http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/eras/civil-war-reconstruction/niagara-movement-1905-1909/”
Kate Tuttle, “Niagara Movement,” Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Williams, Scott (2002). “The Niagara Movement”. Department of Mathematics, University at Buffalo.