W. E. B. Du Bois and the Niagara Movement



A reconstruction of a dialog from late January 2002, my classroom, 2nd interval AP US Historical past, scholar’s title altered for privateness:  
“Ms. Bryan, after Reconstruction, the place did the Black individuals go?” 
“Hmmm….Rosa, let’s assume again to Tuesday.  Do you keep in mind our dialog in regards to the Jim Crow legal guidelines within the South?  Or in regards to the creation of black cities in northeastern Colorado within the Eighteen Eighties?  Are you able to reply your personal query?”
“Duh, Miss!  You recognize I hearken to you.  However I’m speaking in regards to the e book.  The place are they?  Aside from the peanut man, there aren’t any photos of black individuals till Martin Luther King in Chapter 22.  Why not?”
“Nice query, Rosa!  However are you certain?  Let me have a look and I’ll get again to you.  By the best way, the peanut man’s title is George Washington Carver.  Now, right now’s subject is the Populist Occasion platform of 1892.  Everybody, discover a accomplice and….”
And so I clumsily side-stepped my first critical reckoning with the lacking voices of American historical past.  I used to be 25; it was my second yr of instructing and my first time instructing APUSH.  I didn’t even understand that I wanted to critically take into consideration what I used to be instructing and why!  However that second with Rosa led me to an earnest re-appraisal of my instructing decisions and supplies.  And so started my love affair with instructing with main sources.
One of many authors I turned closely reliant upon was W.E.B. Du Bois.  Whereas his rivalry with Booker T. Washington is touched upon in most textbooks, I additionally discovered it helpful to border his contributions to the battle for civil rights as a part of a historic continuum that reached from Reconstruction to the Obama period.  Educating American Historical past’s core doc quantity Populists and Progressives features a basic illustration of Du Bois’ considering concerning the strategies and objectives of the turn-of-the-century civil rights motion. Written in his capability as Nationwide Secretary of the Niagara Motion, Du Bois’ “Tackle to the Nation” illustrates the position that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments performed in his understanding of civil rights. It argues the necessity for federal motion to make sure Black entry to civil rights and reveals that such motion wouldn’t happen with out the grassroots activism of African Individuals like himself.
The brain-child of W. E. B. Du Bois and W. M. Trotter, the Niagara Motion held its first assembly in Fort Erie, Ontario, attracting twenty-nine African American activists.  It resulted within the creation of a nationwide group.  With anticipated chapters in all fifty states; standing committees on civil rights, crime, financial alternative and interstate journey; and the dual goals of overturning segregationist insurance policies within the South and the passage of state-level Civil Rights Acts in northern states, the group launched into a fervid membership and fundraising drive.  The Niagara Motion grew quickly and was poised to develop into the nation’s main Black civil rights group.  
Previous to the Niagara Motion’s inception, the post-Reconstruction civil rights battle had been led by Booker T. Washington.  Founder in 1881 of the Tuskegee Institute, he was a proponent of commercial training.  Arguing that self-improvement would result in eventual safety and prosperity for Black Individuals, Washington defined his philosophy on civil rights in his 1895 speech on the Atlanta Exposition:
The wisest amongst my race perceive that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly. . . . No race that has something to contribute to the markets of the world is lengthy in any diploma ostracized. It is vital and proper that every one privileges of the legislation be ours, however it’s vastly extra vital that we be ready for the train of those privileges.
Niagara Movement
The Niagara Motion’s name for “full manhood suffrage” and “the abolition of all caste distinctions based mostly merely on race and shade” was a flagrant departure from the  accommodationist strategy emanating from Tuskegee.  Of their 1905 “Declaration of Ideas,” launched after that first assembly in Fort Erie, the Niagara Motion dropped at the battle for African American rights a way of urgency and insistence on private company that had been lacking from Washington’s ways.  Writing that “persistent manly agitation is the best way to liberty,” the Niagara Motion decried “[a]ny discrimination based mostly merely on race or shade,” no matter “how hallowed or not it’s by customized, expediency, or prejudice.”

Du Bois’ “Tackle to the Nation” additional embodies the relative radicalism of the Niagara Motion’s function and strategies. Written in the summertime of 1906, it was the closing assertion of the Motion’s second annual assembly.  Held in Harper’s Ferry to commemorate the “one hundredth birthday of John Brown and the Jubilee of the Battle of Osawatomie,” this occasion was the apex of the Niagara Motion’s affect and recognition.  The “Tackle” was learn aloud by L. M. Hershaw, the Washington D.C. secretary, and subsequently extensively revealed in African American newspapers.
“Step-by-step, defenders of the rights of Americans have retreated.”  So wrote Du Bois within the opening paragraph of the assertion.  All through the piece, Du Bois attacked the failures of Black leaders, white society, the federal authorities and the Republican celebration to guard the rights codified within the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.  Labeling segregated colleges within the South “a shame,” he anticipated Brown v. Board of Schooling fifty years therefore.  He referred to as on Congress to supervise congressional elections, foreshadowing federal intervention licensed by the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  And he hammered residence the necessity for federal safety of residents’ Fifteenth Modification rights, for “with the appropriate to vote goes all the things: Freedom, manhood . . . the appropriate to work, and the possibility to rise.” Calling discrimination inside public areas “un-American, un-democratic, and foolish,” he linked the federal authorities’s failure to make sure the appropriate to vote for Black Individuals to the  discriminatory practices of state governments. These practices turned the goal of the grassroots activism seen within the Freedom Rides of 1961 and Freedom Summer season of 1964.
Any scholar of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. will acknowledge his reliance on Du Bois’ cautious balancing of federal motion in opposition to particular person activism.  When Du Bois proclaims “We declare for ourselves each single proper that belongs to a freeborn American, political, civil, and social,” the fashionable reader calls to thoughts King’s well-known assertion on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the summertime of 1963:
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent phrases of the Structure and the Declaration of Independence, they have been signing a promissory notice. . . . This notice was a promise that every one males—sure, black males in addition to white males—can be assured the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Within the evolving position of the federal authorities in guaranteeing civil rights, the “Tackle” performs a key position.  From the redefinition of citizenship within the Reconstruction period; to Du Bois’ cry “We wish the Structure of the nation enforced” throughout Jim Crow; to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the Nineteen Sixties; to fashionable debates about affirmative motion—the questions have been fixed.  What’s the position of the federal authorities in defining civil rights?  How lively ought to or not it’s in guaranteeing entry to these rights?  The “Tackle” solutions these questions, and Du Bois’ response resonates right now.
Regardless of its lofty objectives and Du Bois’ energetic management, the Niagara Motion imploded.  In 1907, the talk over the position of girls within the Niagara Motion deepened the inner battle that aleady existed between state and nationwide officers. The departure of authentic member William M. Trotter, founding father of the influential African-American newspaper the Boston Guardian, led to detrimental publicity and a considerable decline in membership.  The 1908 annual convention was divisive and poorly attended, and monetary woes pressured the group to fold a number of years later.  
NAACP. NAACP Major, 2007. Public area.
Whereas the leaders of the Niagara Motion have been absorbed in internecine battle, the Black residents of Springfield, Illinois turned the most recent victims of racial violence.  On August 14th and fifteenth, 1908, a white mob destroyed the Black part of Springfield, lynching one man, murdering one other, and destroying an estimated $150,000 in property.  That the violence occurred in Lincoln’s adopted hometown shook activists to the core, renewing curiosity in a nationwide civil rights group.  In 1909, white and Black advocates fashioned the Nationwide Affiliation for the Development of Coloured Folks (NAACP). On their web site, the NAACP immediately attributes their founding objectives to the work accomplished by W.E.B. Du Bois and the Niagara Motion.



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