In 1905, 29 Black leaders, including W.E.B. Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter, met near Niagara Falls to formulate an organization and statement dedicated to full Black equality. Du Bois and the Niagara leaders criticized Booker T. Washington for not directly or publicly challenging white supremacy. They urged Black Americans to work for immediate recognition of equal political and civil rights. The organization, called the Niagara Movement, established chapters in more than 20 states. The Niagara Movement struggled financially and disbanded in 1910, but it laid the foundation for the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
We will not be satisfied to take one jot or title less than our full manhood rights. We claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a freeborn American, political, civil and social . . . The battle we wage is not for ourselves alone but for all true Americans. It is a fight for ideals, lest this, our common fatherland, false to its founding, become in truth the land of the thief and the home of the Slave. . . .
In detail our demands are clear and unequivocal. First, we would vote; with the right to vote goes everything: Freedom, manhood, the honor of your wives, the chastity of your daughters, the right to work, and the chance to rise, and let no man listen to those who deny this. . .
Second. We want discrimination in public accommodation to cease. Separation in railway and street cars, based simply on race and color, is un-American, un-democratic, and silly. . . .
Fourth. . . . We are not more lawless than the white race, we are more often arrested, convicted, and mobbed. We want justice even for criminals and outlaws. We want the Constitution of the country enforced . . . .We want the Fourteenth amendment carried out to the letter and every State disfranchised in Congress which attempts to disfranchise its rightful voters. We want the Fifteenth amendment enforced and No State allowed to base its franchise simply on color. . . .
Fifth. We want our children educated. The school system in the country districts of the South is a disgrace and in few towns and cities are Negro schools what they ought to be. . . .
We want our children trained as intelligent human beings should be, and we will fight for all time against any proposal to educate black boys and girls simply as servants and underlings, or simply for the use of other people. They have a right to know, to think, to aspire. . . .
Justice and humanity must prevail. [No monetary gain] is worth the surrender of a people’s manhood or the loss of a man’s self-respect. We refuse to surrender the leadership of this race to cowards and trucklers. We are men; we will be treated as men. On this rock we have planted our banners. We will never give up, though the trump of doom finds us still fighting.
COMPREHENSION AND ANALYSIS QUESTIONS
- What does Du Bois mean when he states that the United States is “false to its founding”?
- What demands does Du Bois make?
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How did W.E.B. Du Bois, prominent African-American intellectual, contribute to understanding the Black experience in America? In this video, BRI Senior Teaching Fellow Tony Williams is joined by Derrick P. Alridge, Professor of Education at the University of Virginia and affiliate faculty member in the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. Dr. Alridge is the author of "The Educational Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois: An Intellectual History." Together, they explore the educational ideas of Du Bois and the ways he challenged racial discrimination in "The Souls of Black Folk" and as editor of "The Crisis." How did his ideas about the "Talented Tenth” and Black education promote equality and justice?