NIAGARA MOVEMENT The Niagara Movement was the first organized African American protest group in the twentieth century. Born at a time when black fortunes were at low ebb, the Niagara Movement represented a challenge to the prevailing black program of acquiescence and accommodation advocated by Booker T. Washington. Led by W. E. B. Du Bois, the organization was founded by a group of twenty-nine black intellectuals who met in Niagara Falls, Canada during June 1905.
Formally renouncing Booker T. Washington's "work and wait" philosophy, Du Bois and the others drew up a platform for aggressive action entitled "The Negro Declaration of Independence." This document called for the restoration of black voting rights; freedom of speech and criticism; the abolition of all distinctions based on race; and the universal recognition of the basic principles of human brotherhood. Following this initial organizational meeting, the Niagara group held national conferences in 1906, 1907 and 1908 at Harpers Ferry (in honor of John Brown), Boston (the former seat of eastern abolitionism) and Oberlin, Ohio (the hotbed of western abolitionism during the nineteenth century). The Harpers Ferry meeting, attended by more than one hundred delegates, was of special significance in that a militantly worded (if not radical, for that day and age) resolution and list of demands was issued. Demanding full and immediate manhood suffrage, the elimination of all Jim Crow practices throughout the United States, and the equal and unbiased enforcement of laws for all citizens, the resolution went on to declare that "we claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a freeborn American — political, civil, and social; and until we get these rights we will never cease to protest and assail the ears of America. The battle we wage is not for ourselves alone but for all true Americans." Absorbed into the framework of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909, the Niagara Movement not only signaled an impending change in the pattern of African-American leadership, but also sowed the seeds of future twentieth century black protest.