African American Civil Rights: Early Activism and the Niagara Movement

African American Civil Rights: Early Activism and the Niagara Movement

African American Civil Rights: Early Activism and the Niagara Movement

African American Civil Rights: Early Activism and the Niagara Movement

Synopsis

African American Civil Rights: Early Activism and the Niagara Movement tells a fascinating story, one that is too frequently marginalized. Offering the first full-length, comprehensive sociological analysis of the Niagara Movement, which existed between 1905 and 1910, the book demonstrates that, although short-lived, the movement was far from a failure. Rather, it made the need to annihilate Jim Crow and address the atrocities caused by slavery publicly visible, creating a foundation for more widely celebrated mid-20th-century achievements.

This unique study focuses on what author Angela Jones terms black publics, groups of concerned citizens- men and women, alike- who met to shift public opinion. The book explores their pivotal role in initiating the civil rights movement, specifically examining secular organizations, intellectual circles, the secular black press, black honor societies and clubs, and prestigious educational networks. All of these, Jones convincingly demonstrates, were seminal to the development of civil rights protest in the early 20th century.

Excerpt

Here is the first full-length comprehensive sociological analysis of the Niagara Movement, 1905–1910. Its legacy is neglected, the movement flippantly reduced to being the inconsequential precursor of the NAACP or a superficial organization created by the idealist W.E.B. Du Bois. In reality, the Niagara Movement, although short lived, was not a failure. It was a success because it made visible the need to annihilate Jim Crow and the need to address publicly the atrocities caused by slavery. This case study of the Niagara Movement ultimately reveals that scholars of social movements, political scientists, and historians alike must focus on the crucial role of talk and debate in political action. It is important that around the turn of the 20th century, marginalized African Americans carved out new public space for the purposes of discussing the struggle against Jim Crow and the limitations of American democracy. Moreover, the creation of new black publics led to the debates and discussions that set the stage for 20th-century black protest. This study of the Niagara Movement reveals new insight into the history of the Civil Rights Movement and examines talk and public discussion as an understudied resource for mobilization.

This book aims to reveal several important arguments. First, the Niagara Movement was an important civil rights organization that played a crucial role in the development of the larger Civil Rights Movement. The Niagara Movement was the precursor to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Moreover, the Civil Rights Movement was not just a mid-20th-century phenomenon. The making of what I call “black publics” played a pivotal role in initiating the Civil Rights Movement. While recognizing the limitations of models, I argue that the Civil Rights Movement occurred in four phases: Black Publics (initial dialogue) → Legal Phase (legal attempts at reform) → Direct Action (physical protest) → Revolutionary Movement (rise of black power). The initial phase is the focal point of my work simply because this period receives the least attention. The creation of publics, or groups of concerned citizens that met publicly . . .

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