THE NIAGARA MOVEMENT
The Niagara Movement was a movement of African-American intellectuals that was founded in 1905 at Niagara Falls by such prominent men as W. E. B. DuBois and William Monroe Trotter. The movement was dedicated to obtaining civil rights for African-Americans. In 1909, the Niagara Movement was hampered by a lack of funds, and many members (including DuBois) joined the newly-founded National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP was an organization which used legal power to obtain rights for black Americans, and which is still in existence today.
In 1908, the Niagara Movement held their annual meeting in Oberlin. These newspaper articles describe the proceedings and the reactions to the meeting.
Top row, left to right: H. A. Thompson, New York; Alonzo F. Herndon, Georgia; unidentified; unidentified.
Second Row, left to right: Fred McGhee, Minnesota; unidentified boy; J. Max Barber, Illinois; W.E.B. Du Bois, Atlanta; Robert Bonner, Massachusetts;
Bottom Row: left to right: Henry L. Baily, Washington, D.C.; Clement G. Morgan, Massachusetts; W.H.H. Hart, Washington, D.C.; and B.S. Smith, Kansas.
August 28, 1908
National Organization of Colored Men Coming to Oberlin
Will Convene August 31 to September 2 - Many Prominent Men From Different Sections
The Niagara Movement, a national organization of colored men established in 1905, and taking its name from its first meeting place, Niagara, will convene in Oberlin August 31 to September 2. Its membership roll includes many colored men of prominence, as the General Secretary, Prof. W. E. B. DuBois, of Atlanta University, well-known as the author of "The Soul of Black Folk," Mr. F. L. McGhee, of St. Paul, Prof. William Pickens, of Talladega College, Dr. C. E. Bently of Chicago, and many others who might be mentioned. The business of the conference, at most of which the public will be welcome. On Tuesday evening, September 1, a mass meeting will be held in Warner hall to which all citizens of Oberlin are invited. The address of welcome will be delivered by Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt of Cleveland, known as the author of "The Marrow of Tradition," "The House behind the Cedars," and "The Colonel's Dream," and the Niagara membership will be ably represented by Professor DuBois, Mr. F. L. McGhee, and others.
The purposes of the Niagara Movement are well set forth in its constitution, of which one article reads as follows: "The Niagara Movement stands for freedom of speech and criticism; an unfettered and unsubsidized press; manhood suffrage; the abolition of all caste distinctions based simply on race and color; the recognition of the principles of human brotherhood as a practical present creed; the recognition of the highest and best human training as the monopoly of no class or race; a belief in the dignity of labor; and united effort to realize these ideals under wise and courageous leadership."
The local committee will meet Saturday and consists of the following: Mrs. Blanche V. Jones, Oberlin, O. Dr. C. E. Bently, Chicago; William R. Green, Cleveland; H. E. Tuck, Oberlin; E. C. Williams, Adelbert college, Cleveland.
September 4, 1908
Leaders of the Niagara Movement Succeed in Carrying Resolutions
Convention Was at a Dead-Lock at Morning Session - Many From Out of Town
Considerable excitement was occasioned among many of the colored people of this place Wednesday afternoon at the closing session of the Niagara Movement, which has been in session here this week. The excitement grew out of an attempt to introduce a political measure in the resolutions, denouncing the Republican party and William H. Taft. At the morning session the delegates were at a dead-lock, in regard to the passage of the resolutions. An adjournment was made until the afternoon, when the leaders succeeded in carrying the day.
In speeches made by Professor Du Bois of Atlanta, Rev. G. W. Mitchell of Baltimore and others, Bryan was lauded and each declared it was the duty of the colored race to support the Democratic nominee.
It was the fourth annual session of the organization, commencing Monday and closing Wednesday afternoon. Prominent colored men were present from various parts of the country. Dr. DuBois, president of Atlanta university, has been the general secretary of the organization. His reports of what the Niagara Movement has accomplished were interesting.
The election of officers held on the last day resulted as follows: Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, Atlanta, Ga., general secretary; Mason A. Hawkins, Baltimore, Md., treasurer.
The report of the committee, embracing the resolutions adopted, is as follows:
The Niagara movement at its fourth annual meeting congratulates ten million Negro Americans on their unparalleled opportunity to lead the greatest moral battle of modern times - the fight for the abolition of the color line. In Europe, Asia, and Africa the revolt against mere denomination of color and race has begun. The triumph of the highest civilization is the hope of all races, and that civilization is not and never was the property of any one race or color.
The modern attempt to make it so is the last grasp of barbarism, and has cause a moral deterioration which today threatens the peace and progress of the world. Nowhere has the fearful cost of using crime and lies as a weapon to force races into subjection been so apparent as right here in the United States. This nation has stolen the black man's labor, and has so learned theft; it has lied away the liberties of black litigants, and so learned lawlessness; it has prostituted the ballot and so shaken the foundation of Democracy. Fellow Americans, does it pay? Is the superiority of the white race demonstrated by burning human beings, lynching innocent workingmen, stealing black men's votes and insulting black women?
The program laid down by the Negro haters of America is the most tremendous mistake this nation ever made. It is uncivilized, illogical, and wrong; it cannot triumph unless the Christian religion is a lie. Yet the converts to race segregation and subjection are growing alarmingly. We are today fighting for free common schools in Pennsylvania, for free ballots in Maryland, and for freedom of travel in the nation. The cause of human freedom shrieks aloud in our every step. It is not because of our poverty, it is not because of ignorance, it is not because of crime, it is not even because of race antipathy; it is simply the crude and brutal desire to oppress and abuse and murder wherever and whenever there is no fear of public opinion or courts of law or just retaliation. Once we were told: Be worthy and fit and the ways are open. Today the avenues of advancement in the army, navy, and civil service, and even in business and professional life, are continually closed to black applicants of proven fitness, simply on the bald excuse of race and color.
This is the spirit and practice which the Niagara Movement is fighting, and will never cease to fight.
First: We say to our own: Obey the law, defend no crime, conceal no criminal, seek no quarrel; but are yourselves, and when the mob invades your home, shoot, and shoot to kill.
Secondly: We say to voters: Register and vote whenever and wherever you have a right. Vote not in the past, but in the present. Remember that the conduct of the Republican party toward Negroes has been a disgraceful failure to keep just promises. The dominant Roosevelt faction has sinned in this respect beyond forgiveness. We therefore trust that every black voter will uphold men like Joseph Benson Foraker, and will leave no stone unturned to defeat William H. Taft. Remember Brownsville, and establish next November the principle of Negro independence in voting, not only for punishing enemies, but for rebuking false friends.
Let no bribe of money, office nor influence seduce the Negro American to betray the great principles of liberty, equality and opportunity. The race in the to the swift nor the battle to the strong. And the men today who think they can club ten million Negro Americans into inferiority and submission forget that God reigns and the Government at Washington still lives.
Frederick L. McGhee, Minn.,
Charles E. Bentley, Ill.,
Gertrude W. Morgan, Mass.,
William E. Henderson, Ind.,
W. E. B. DuBois, Ga.
September 4, 1908
Exceptions to Resolutions
Of Niagara Movement Taken by Oberlin Colored Citizen
Strongly Censures Leaders for Denouncing Republicans as Injurious to the Race
I attended several meetings of the Niagara Movement and was very much impressed with what I considered the broad policy, and also the strong men, intellectually who were delegates.
I was much impressed with the leader of this movement, Professor W. E. B. DuBois, whom I consider one of our intellectual giants.
But there are some things that did not leave me so favorably impressed after a better acquaintance with some of the purposes of this movements.
I cannot have much patience with the Negro who denounced Dr. Washington, as a detriment, and a man who is looking for personal gain. Certainly no man can assert, in truth, that he has not done more for the Negro's cause than any other man of the race, and he is still doing that today.
This spirit of bitterness that seems to make some people and among them ministers of the Gospel, want to injure this great man is a policy that the American public will not approve.
There exists also a spirit of retaliation and revenge on the part of some members, and it seems as if a certain few had an axe to grind.
The one great mistake, as it appears to me, that was made was the adoption of a political resolution. In doing this a bitter spirit of revenge and retaliation cropped out with a vengeance.
They tell the Negro that the Roosevelt faction has sinned beyond forgiveness and pray that the Negro will uphold men like Foraker, and leave no stone unturned to defeat William H. Taft.
We, as a race, felt grateful to Mr. Foraker or any one else who offers up assistance in our struggle upward, and on the other hand we feel grateful to the party who has given him the opportunity to make of himself what he is. If President Roosevelt made a mistake in the Brownsville affair, we must remember that he too is human and can make mistakes.
The Negro has too much at stake, and especially now to adopt any such radical measure. I would like to ask some of these gentlemen, who we are to vote for if we desert the Republican party? Are we to vote for the party of Vardamen, or Tillman?
Are we to put the government into the hands of men who would or have boasted that they would, repeal the amendments that guarantee us our civil rights?
Are the Niagara people treating ten millions of Negroes right when they parade real and imaginary wrongs before the country and say we, the Negroes, are going to defeat the party that has made us free, and given us laws to guarantee us citizenship?
Would Dr. Booker Washington be so narrow as to offer this as a solution or remedy?
I believe that if some of these delegates would study some of Washington's ideas and ways of accomplishing results in that diplomatic way of his, they could apply the same to the Niagara Movement with good results.
It seems to have been a careful arranged plan to railroad this thru, but Mr. Parker caught the question and denounced such a political stand.
He even called attention to the city in which they were meeting, what these people stood for, and suggested that if that was the kind of work they intended doing they ought to have met in Mississippi rather than in Oberlin.
Another speaker against this measure was Professor Pickings, who scored them severely. Mrs. Clifford of Washington, D. C. made an appeal to have politics eliminated entirely. Mr. Farmer said he could not see such a resolution adopted, being a member of the movement, without uttering a word of protest.
During the morning session they could not force the measure thru, so adjourned until 2:30 o'clock. In the afternoon they succeeded in passing it over the opposition.
I was there in the morning session and I can safely say that this does not represent the opinion of the majority of the voters of the Niagara Movement.
I believe in many of the principles of the Niagara Movement, and I believe much good could be accomplished by them, as I also believe in Dr. Washington's principles generally.
Washington is educating Negroes and public opinion and in turn he is getting the unqualified support of both.
The Niagara Movement is likely to create a prejudiced public opinion against the Negro, and consequently they will cause the Negro to turn against them.
If these people succeed in revenging themselves on the Republican party, and the Republicans become alienated from us what will the result be?
Who will be to blame? Who will suffer most? Certainly not the men who are engineering this scheme, but the ten millions of Negroes who are having nothing to do with passing such a measure. There is one man who could have forced that vote in either direction, a man of unquestioned ability and foresight, but he neglected, rather than favored such a course.
It is this man that the Negroes will hold guilty if this measure works against them.
I say let every man vote for William H. Taft, and keep the friends we have gained and by working in harmony with the party that stands for, at least citizenship and civil rights, gain more friends, and use the strong arm of the Republican party as a protection and guide in our march upward.
W. M. Butler
September 14, 1908
All Men Without Regard to Race or Color is Demand of Republican Party
"The Republican party has been for more than fifty years the consistent friend of the American negro. It gave him freedom and citizenship. It wrote into the organic law the declaration that proclaims his civil and political rights, and it believes to-day that his noteworthy progress in intelligence, industry, and good citizenship has earned the respect and encouragement of the nation. We demand equal justice for all men, without regard to race or color; we declare once more and without reservation, for the enforcement in letter and spirit of the amendments to the Constitution, which were designed for the protection and advancement of the negro, and we condemn all devices that have for their real aim his disenfranchisement for reasons of color alone, as unfair, un-American and repugnant to the supreme law of the land." - From Republican platform adopted at national convention 1908.
"The white man in the South has disfranchised the negro in self-protection; and there is not a Republican in the North who would not have done the same thing under the same circumstance. The white men of the South are determined that the negro shall be disenfranchised everywhere it is necessary to prevent the recurrence of the horrors of carpetbag rule." -William Jennings Bryan, in a speech at New York in 1908.
"I favor, and if elected will urge with all my power, the elimination of the negro from politics." - Hoke Smith, governor of Georgia; secretary of the interior under President Cleveland.
"In my opinion the granting of universal suffrage to the negro was the mistake of the nineteenth century." -Co. Hillary A. Herbert, secretary of the navy under President Cleveland
"We stuffed ballot boxes, we shot negroes; we are not ashamed of it." - Senator Tillman, in United States Senate.
September 11, 1908
A Political Meeting Held
Only a Few Turned Out at the Call of Taft Club
Colored Speaker Took Issue With Niagara Movement - Calls It Political Movement
A meeting of the Taft club was held on the campus last Saturday night. Only a few people were present when President G. L. Durand called the meeting to order. Mr. Parker, a colored orator of exceptional ability, made the address which was for the most part a reply to the members of the Niagara Movement.
Mr. Parker made the following address:
"At the fourth annual meeting of the Niagara Movement held last week, resolutions were adopted as follows:
"Remember that the conduct of the Republican party toward negroes has been a disgraceful failure to keep just promises. The dominant Roosevelt faction has sinned in this respect beyond forgiveness. We therefore trust that every black voter will uphold men like Joseph Benson Foraker, and will leave no stone unturned to defeat William H. Taft."
The citizens of Oberlin and Lorain county, Ohio, in mass meeting assembled without regard to race or color feeling keenly the insult which nineteen men, the number composing the attendance at the Niagara movement assuming to represent ten millions of negroes in this country has offered to us the children of heroic pioneers, the inheritors of the fruits of their brave unselfish toil on behalf of the colored people of this county and country, do solemnly protest against that part of the Niagara address urging colored voters to defeat the Republican party and Judge Taft at the November election. Proud historic Oberlin, so often the refuge of the trembling and hunted slave, the grand central depot of the underground railroad, the first to open its college doors 75 years ago to colored students; dedicated to the cause of emancipation, recognizing the Republican party as the best friends of liberty and the negro and as the political and moral force in our national life; pointing with pride to emancipation to negro citizenship to political equality of the negro in all parts of the country where this great party has been in power and made its impress upon the people; pointing to the prevailing sentiment of good fellowship for the negro in Republican communities generally to the efforts in such communities to life the negro to higher levels of moral and intellectual life; pointing to all these and the finer influences that build men and not slaves; proud historic Oberlin with the few white haired survivors of the Oberlin-Wellington rescue feebly resting on her still strong arms, rise here under the historic elm to present this record of Republican achievements in our protest against the boldness of nineteen inexperienced colored men in selecting this consecrated spot to utter words of treason to the great party and to the memory of our noble dead. Oberlin is not the place to utter such sentiments. Council hall, the home of theologians, too sacred a place for colored democrats to preach the doctrine of political infidelity to orthodox colored Republicans of the country. The genius of the place should have forbidden such an insult to the great party which this people has been and is still using to protect the negro and the country against the blighting encroachments of the democratic party. This handful of malcontents so plainly insensible to the spirit of this place and to the achievements it has wrought for the negro thru the Republican party are dangerous public teachers. They little know that in this Western Reserve country the Republican party has done its best work. The air of freedom and fair play pervades every home. Right thinking, energetic colored men and women constructive members of their communities, have put their shoulders to the wheel to help the party lift up the masses here and elsewhere. The fruits of victory and the common heritage of whites and blacks alike. It is meet therefore that we should meet here as children of a common tho composite nationality to demand that the Niagara movement or any other democratic agency show us a shelter or refuge provided by democrats for our reception where we will rise even one half as rapidly into liberty as we have risen under Republican rule. The Democratic party will welcome you in November as a voter but it will never welcome you as a man.
You must leave your manhood behind whenever you enter the domain of that party. It has no civil and political equality to offer the negro. It has never offered him any and it never will if the south is to be consulted.
The south has killed the negro civilly and politically. If Mr. Bryan is elected the southern confederacy will at once be back in the saddle in the city of Washington, and the negro in the north will feel the shock of southern civilization insidiously creeping into the life of every city and village situated near Mason and Dixon line. All the deeds of infamy, Jim Crowism and the civil and political death of the negro are the proud deeds of southern democracy. Its a part of the civilization that abounds there. They would not surrender it even for the Presidency, not even for the support of the Niagara movement. If the negro in obedience to the Niagara movement strays from the Republican party and defeats Mr. Taft, thereby endangering the prosperity of the country, will the Republican party, sore and bleeding from stabs by negroes, run after those straying negroes to get them to help it get back in power? No! No! This doctrine of punishment urged by the Niagara movement will cost the negro his best friends in both parties. In will turn him back twenty-five years in the scale of human progress.