The Niagara Movement

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W.E.B. Du Bois and the Ascendency and Decline of
The Niagara Movement

Monday December 5, 2011

Dr. Wilson Fallin December 2, 2011 African American History 473

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois and the
Ascendency and Decline of the Niagara Movement

At the turn of the twentieth century, African Americans were in search of political, social and racial equality. Known as the most intriguing intellectual of the black race, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois or more commonly referred to as W.E.B Du Bois formed a coalition of other esteemed blacks in what became known as the Niagara Movement in 1905. The organization received its name for the “mighty current” effect they would have on black oppression and social injustice to all races. These eager intellectuals sought to motivate and educate people of all races and to combat the evils of white supremacy, Jim Crow, and black oppression. Being a profound orator, Du Bois along with the members of the Niagara Movement would oppose Booker T. Washington and seek to persuade the masses that not accommodation, but education was the key to black prosperity. In July of 1905, annoyed by Washington’s continued accommodating policies towards whites and his influence in the black community, W.E.B. Du Bois sent documents to other “like-minded” men which informed them of a meeting to be held to discuss the race problem in the United States. “Drafted and circulated by Du Bois in early June, the call stated two forthright purposes: “organized determination and aggressive action on the part of men who believe in Negro freedom and growth”; and opposition to “present methods of strangling honest criticism (Lewis. 316).” Over forty men were invited. Many of whom were his colleagues. Twenty-nine men met in Ontario, Canada under the understanding that something had to be done about the race problem, as well as Booker T. Washington. The meeting was held to discuss alternative solutions to ending racial discrimination, disenfranchisement of blacks, and the promotion of black education. Being in opposition to Washington, who was the (hand-picked) spokesman for the black race, the movement sought more militant ways of deflecting central attitudes towards racism. This organization would soon plant their feet in the soil of American politics, and they would not be moved without a change. The very next year on August 15, 1906 the movement would convene again, but this time on American turf. The site of the historically famous John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia would become the second meeting place of the movement. Du Bois stated that this meeting was “one of the greatest meetings American Negroes ever held.” Du Bois would eventually make a speech regarding the purposes of the second convention. “The men of the Niagara Movement coming from the toil of the year’s hard work and pausing a moment from the earning of their daily bread turn toward the nation and again ask in the name of ten million the privilege of a hearing. In the past year the work of the Negro hater has flourished in the land. Step by step the defenders of the rights of American citizens have retreated. The work of stealing the black man’s ballot has progressed and the fifty and more representatives of stolen votes still sit in the nation’s capital. Discrimination in travel and public accommodation has so spread that some of our weaker brethren are actually afraid to thunder against color discrimination as such and are simply whispering for ordinary decencies (Du Bois).” As the next two years toiled on, and black oppression ascended throughout the country, members of the Niagara Movement would convene again in Oberlin, Ohio. Du Bois, who was the general secretary of the movement, was extremely enthusiastic of the movements’...
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