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Niagara Movement explored in an upcoming documentary


The early battle for civil rights

Film and history lovers alike are in for a real treat this November, as “The Niagara Movement: The Early Battle for Civil Rights” is set to premiere on Nov. 6 at 9 p.m. The film is an hour-long documentary by WNED PBS that delves deep into a national crusade that was the precursor for the launch of NAACP and the civil rights landscape. The Niagara Movement took place prior to the Civil Rights Movement and was a movement designed to combat the suppression of Black advancement and began in 1905. 

“The Niagara Movement: The Early Battle for Civil Rights” is produced and directed by Emmy Award-winning and two-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lawrence R. Hott, and spotlights the early battle behind the civil rights movement that sprang forth as a repudiation of the methods of Booker T. Washington, then the most prominent Black leader in America. The end of Reconstruction brought about oppressive Jim Crow laws and widespread lynching. Washington pandered to White society with his conciliatory philosophy of racial segregation and industrial training for Blacks instead of other advances.

Washington’s position was roundly criticized by W..E.B Du Bois and by William Monroe Trotter, a prominent Boston newspaper publisher, and soon a new civil rights organization emerged: the Niagara Movement. The group was formed when Du Bois and Trotter helped summon Black intellectuals, clergy, writers, newspapermen and activists from across the country to Buffalo, New York; the 29 men ultimately met across the Niagara River in Fort Erie, Canada, to evade disruption by Washington’s supporters. The organization’s key demand: full civil rights for Black Americans.

Its Declaration of Principles, a sharp rebuke to Washington, stated, in part: “We refuse to allow the impression to remain that the Negro-American assents to inferiority, is submissive under oppression, and apologetic before insults.” The film captures the far-reaching impact of the short-lived movement — disbanded only four years after its inception — which laid the cornerstone of the modern American civil rights movement, eventually morphing into the NAACP.

Visit for more information, educational resources and bonus materials. Follow WNED PBS on X (formerly known as Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram (@wnedpbs). Major funding for “The Niagara Movement: The Early Battle for Civil Rights” was provided by The John R. Oishei Foundation, with additional funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay Inc.--In Memory of Susan Howarth.