Niagara Movement

The Niagara Movement was a civil-rights group founded in 1905 near Niagara Falls. Scholar and activist W. E. B. Du Bois gathered with supporters on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to form an organization dedicated to social and political change for African Americans. Its list of demands included an end to segregation and discrimination in unions, the courts, and public accommodations, as well as equality of economic and educational opportunity. Although the Niagara Movement had little impact on legislative action, its ideals led to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

Niagara Movement is Founded in 1905

This was a major step on the road to black militancy. Its beginnings may be traced to the publication in 1903 of The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois, the first black American to earn a doctorate from Harvard.

That book included an essay, “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others,” which attacked Washington’s Atlanta Compromise speech and accused him of abandoning the fight for black political rights and accepting segregation in exchange for illusory economic gains.

In 1905, Du Bois and several other black supporters wishing to meet gathered at Niagara Falls, but on the Canadian side since no hotel on the American side would allow them to register.

They drafted a list of demands that included an end to segregation and to discrimination in unions, the courts, and public accommodations, as well as equality of economic and educational opportunity.

Impact of the Niagara Movement

Although the Niagara movement attracted the attention of like-minded whites, it had little impact on legislative or popular opinion.

But after race riots in Springfield, Illinois, in 1909, a group of white progressives, including the social worker Jane Addams, the philosopher John Dewey, the novelist William Dean Howells, and the editor Oswald Garrison Villard, a grandson of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, formed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

They adopted many of the goals of the Niagara movement and hired its leader, Du Bois, as director of publicity and research, and editor of their journal, Crisis.

The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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