Civil and Political Rights

How was the Niagara Movement founded and named?

After a closed-door meeting was held at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1904 and the Committee of Twelve for the Advancement of the Interest of the Negro Race was created, infighting led the group to disband. The following year, Du Bois and Trotter extended invitations to fifty-nine leading African Americans who opposed Booker T. Washington to attend a meeting in western New York that summer. In addition to being the nation’s eighth largest city, Buffalo had historically been associated with the struggle for freedom from slavery, and western New York was considered an important crossing point on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves headed to safety in Canada. However, a Buffalo hotel refused to accommodate the attendees, forcing them to move their organizational efforts to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Twenty-nine African-American businessmen, writers, teachers, and clergy met from July 11 to 14, 1905, to form the Niagara Movement. Its name honored the place of its founding and acted as a constant reminder of the “mighty current” of protest its founders wished to unleash on American society. Du Bois was named general secretary of the organization. Booker T. Washington’s determined opposition to the movement barred virtually all white assistance to it and limited its effectiveness. It was not until a violent race riot in Springfield, Illinois, in 1908 that the Niagara Movement effectively paved the way for the creation of the more powerful interracial NAACP in 1909.


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