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W.E.B. Du Bois, Niagara, and the Founding of the NAACP

February is Black History Month, an opportunity to honor the triumphs and struggles of Black Americans throughout US history. While it’s important to read Black authors and books about the history of Black communities all year round, BHM offers us an opportunity to focus deeply on that critical history. Each week this month, we’ll discuss a significant era in Black history in the United States and recommend books you can read to learn more. We hope you’ll read along with us—it’s one (excellent) way you can earn your Black History Month reading badge for February!To kick things off, we’re delving into the Niagara Movement and the founding of the NAACP. At the turn of the 20th Century, the promises of emancipation and Reconstruction had fallen well short in ensuring equality for Black Americans. Faced with Jim Crow segregation, racial violence, and disenfranchisement, a group of Black intellectuals led by W.E.B. Du Bois met in Niagara Falls in 1905 to form a group dedicated to social and economic equality for Black Americans. “We refuse to allow the impression to remain that the Negro-American assents to inferiority, is submissive under oppression and apologetic before insults,” their declaration read. “Persistent manly agitation is the way to liberty, and toward this goal the Niagara Movement has started and asks the cooperation of all men of all races.”The Niagara Movement grew from there, and had some success at the state level in preventing the spread of segregation to the North. By 1908, however, support for the group had dwindled. Then, in August of 1908, a horrific race riot broke out in Springfield, Illinois—the former home of Abraham Lincoln. A lynch mob destroyed the homes, stores, and neighborhoods of Black residents and murdered two Black men. In response to the racial violence, the Niagara movement founder W.E.B. Du Bois, along with other prominent Black activists including Ida B. Wells, joined with white progressives, including Mary White Ovington and Henry Moskowitz, in forming the NAACP: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP championed equal rights, working to eliminate racial prejudice and to “advance the interest of colored citizens” in voting rights, legal justice, and educational and employment opportunities. The NAACP’s earliest campaigns fought to end lynching, to prevent the establishment of the grandfather clause, and to boycott “The Birth of a Nation,” a film that sympathetically portrayed the establishment of the Ku Klux Klan and perpetuated racist stereotypes about Black people. The NAACP went on to win pivotal legal victories during the Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s, and today it remains the largest and oldest civil rights organization in the United States. To learn more about W.E.B. Du Bois and this era in Black history, we recommend going straight to the source: W.E.B. Du Bois’s seminal “The Souls of Black Folk” is free to read on Fable, and is an essential work of American literature. For more on the important work of the NAACP, we recommend “Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement.”To learn more about Ida B. Wells, one of the founding members of the NAACP and a prominent advocate for women’s suffrage, we recommend her autobiography, “Crusade for Justice.” Stay tuned for next week’s segment, which will be focused on the Harlem Renaissance!
The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois digital book - Fable

The Souls of Black Folk

By W.E.B. Du Bois

When it was first published in 1903, W. E. B Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk represented a seismic shift in the discussion of race in the United States.

Lift Every Voice by Patricia Sullivan digital book - Fable

Lift Every Voice

By Patricia Sullivan

This is a history of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), America’s oldest civil rights organisation.

Crusade for Justice by Ida B. Wells digital book - Fable

Crusade for Justice

By Ida B. Wells

The NAACP co-founder, civil rights activist, educator, and journalist recounts her public and private life in this classic memoir.

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