This Day in Black History: The Niagara Movement Founded

From the African American Registry

Niagara Movement group photo 1905

Niagara Movement group photo 1905

This date marks the founding of the Niagara Movement, the first significant black organized protest movement of the 20th century in America.

It also represented the attempt of a small yet articulate group of radicals to challenge the then dominant ideals of Booker T. Washington. At the turn of the century there were divisions in African-American political life: those who believed in accommodation, led by Booker T. Washington; and the more militant group, led by W.E.B. Du Bois and William M. Trotter.

In 1904, a closed-door meeting at Carnegie hall produced the Committee of Twelve for the Advancement of the Interest of the Negro Race, but it fell apart due to infighting. In February 1905, Du Bois and Trotter put together an all-black group that included Frederick L. McGhee and C.E. Bentley. They invited 59 well known anti-Washington businessmen to a meeting that summer in western New York. On July 11 thru 14, 1905, on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, 29 men met and formed a group they called the Niagara Movement. The name came because of the location and the “mighty current” of protest they wished to unleash.