Placing Waterfalls: How Niagara Falls Powered the Niagara Movement
“To ignore, overlook, or apologize for these wrongs is to prove ourselves unworthy of freedom.”- Declaration of Principles, Niagara Movement, 1905
Today, on 111th anniversary of its founding, we are reflecting on the significance the Niagara Movement, a civil rights organization that held its inaugural meeting on banks of one of the most prominent natural spaces in the United States.
Niagara Falls had long been a simple of Black Liberation. Underground Railroad conductor and Outdoor Afro of her time, Harriet Tubman demanded her passengers to “Come look at the Falls!” as they made their way to freedom in Canada. Niagara Movement Organizers, W.E.B. DuBois and William Trotter connected the roar of the falls to their demand for racial justice and their rejection of accommodation and conciliation.
So from July 11-13, 1905, intentional on the significance of their environment to their cause, they named their organization “The Niagara Movement” to be representative of a “mighty current” of change its leaders sought to bring about.
Over the course of three days, the participants met around the dining room table of prominent Black American Mary Talbert and created their Declaration of Principles. The nineteen paragraph document which urges Black Americans “to protest emphatically and continually against the curtailment of their political rights” resonates as we reread them today. And it is an important reminder of how the outdoors have inspired Black leadership and revolution.