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(1906) W.E.B. DuBois, “Men of Niagara”

In 1906, one year after the Niagara Movement was founded, it held its second annual meeting at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  W.E.B. Du Bois, a founding member and its titular leader, gave the address below to the assembled civil rights activists.

The men of the Niagara Movement coming from the toil of the years hard work and pausing a moment from the earning of their daily bread turn toward the nation and again ask again, in the name of ten million, the privilege of a hearing.

In the past year the work of the Negro-hater has flourished in the land. Step by step the defenders of the rights of American citizens have retreated. The work of stealing the black mans ballot has progressed and the fifty and more representatives of stolen votes still sit in the nations capital. Discrimination in travel and public accommodation has so spread that some of our weaker brethren are actually afraid to thunder against color discrimination as such and are simply whispering for ordinary decencies. Against this the Niagara Movement eternally protests. 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; and until we get these rights we will never cease to protest and assail the ears of America! 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, a byword and a hissing among the nations for its sounding pretensions and pitiful accomplishments.

Never before in the modern age has a great and civilized folk threatened to adopt so cowardly a creed in the treatment of its fellow citizens born and bred on it soil. Stripped of verbiage and subterfuge and in its naked nastiness, the new American creed says: Fear to let black men even try to rise lest they become the equals of the white. And this is the land that professes to

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