W.E.B. Du Bois: An Encyclopedia

By Gerald Horne; Mary Young | Go to book overview
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The NAACP grew out of the Niagara Movement and out of an interracial conference in 1909 to discuss the status of African Americans. Du Bois and other highly educated and upper-class African Americans initiated the Niagara Movement to create a forum for black intellectuals to debate routes toward racial equality. The movement quickly dissipated as the group became absorbed by other larger black organizations like the NAACP. Those involved in the interracial conference were black radicals dissatisfied with the agenda of Booker T. Washington and white Socialists or Progressives also discouraged with the degenerating status of black Americans. W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida WellsBarnett, and William Monroe Trotter were among the most vocal blacks at the conference. The agenda at this interracial conference laid the foundation for the NAACP's strategy that involved the legal enforcement of African Americans' constitutional rights. The early agenda laid out by Du Bois was to secure the civil rights of African Americans by forcing the legal system to uphold the Fourteenth Amendment, equal education opportunities, and voting rights.

Du Bois became progressively outraged with the disfranchisement of blacks between 1890 and 1910 by the former slave states. These Jim Crow laws functioned to segregate the railroads, streetcars, and public facilities. The “legal caste system,” as Du Bois called it, based on race and color, led him to abandon his teaching position at Atlanta University in 1910 and to accept a position with the NAACP as the director of Publications and Research in 1911. Du Bois, along with others, officially incorporated the NAACP.

The NAACP provided Du Bois with the opportunity to reach a broader audience. He was appointed editor of The Crisis, the NAACP's magazine. The editorship of The Crisis would prove his most important post. In The Crisis, Du


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