Political and Social Movements

The Civil Rights Movement

What was the Niagara movement?

It was a short-lived but important African American organization that advocated “the total integration of blacks into mainstream society, with all the rights, privileges, and benefits of other Americans.” Founded in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 1905, the Niagara movement was led by writer, scholar, and activist W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963), who was then a professor of economics and history at Atlanta University. Observers described the organization as the anti-Bookerite camp: Educator Booker T. Washington (1856–1915), who rose from slavery to found Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute (1881), believed change for black people should be effected through education and self-improvement—not through demand. Mr. Washington opposed the social and political agitation favored by some reformers; the Niagara movement, on the other hand, placed the responsibility for the nation’s racial problems squarely on the shoulders of its white population. The 30 branches of the Niagara movement challenged conservative politics of the so-called “Tuskegee Machine” led by Booker T. Washington. Though the Niagara organization dissolved in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was heir to its ideology and activism. Du Bois helped found that organization, and from 1910 to 1934 edited its official journal, The Crisis, in which he published his views “on nearly every important social issue that confronted the black community.”


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