In 1905 from July 11th to July 13th twenty-nine men from fourteen states met on the Ontario, Canada side of Niagara Falls. They were led by W. E. B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter, John Hope, and Fred L. McGhee, who had sent out a call to like-minded individuals, who “do their own thinking.” The men drafted a list of demands entitled the “Declaration of Principles” that called for an end to legal, economic, educational, and social discrimination. Among the many stated “demands” was a return to Jeffersonian republican ideology expressed in the Declaration of Independence:
“We note with alarm the evident retrogression in this land of sound public opinion on the subject of manhood rights, republican government and human brotherhood, and we pray God that this nation will not degenerate into a mob of boasters and oppressors, but rather will return to the faith of the fathers, that all men were created free and equal, with certain unalienable rights.”
This was the “Niagara Movement” of 1905 that was the first step that led to the establishment in 1909 of a “National Negro Committee” led by Ida B. Wells-Barnett, W. E. B. DuBois, Henry Moscowitz, Oswald Garrison Villard, William English Walling, and Mary White Ovington. One year later, the “Committee” was reorganized under the name of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and officially incorporated in May 1911.
In 1963 the Congress of Racial Equality, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and individuals such as Bayard Rustin and H. Asa Philip Randolph organized a March on Washington. More than 250,000 people stood before the Lincoln Memorial on August 28 and listened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver a powerful demand for America to make good on the promise made by the architects of the American republic encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence:
“So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
We celebrate the efforts of thousands of individuals, Black and White, Christian and Jew, men and women, young and old, who laid the foundation of achievement, upon which we now stand, in order to maintain our great American republic. We marvel at the commitment and dedication of DuBois, Wells-Barnett, A. Philip Randolph, Mary Church Terrell, James Weldon Johnson, Roy Wilkins, and Thurgood Marshall. We remember with reverence the sacrifice of Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr. We are reminded of future possibilities as we listen to the call of America’s first African American president, Barack Obama, to forge ahead as a nation, united, devoid of racist ideology. Moreover, we gaze forward to the future with hope and anticipation as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People continues to pursue freedom, liberty, and happiness for all, while working “to assure every citizen of color the common rights of American citizenship” employing “education, organization, agitation, and publicity, the force of an enlightened public opinion.”
Please join us in our efforts. America has made great strides; however, as W. E. B. DuBois stated in 1910 with the founding of “The Crisis,” official newspaper of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, “this is a critical time in the history of the advancement of [humankind].” Thank you for your support, and may we all achieve the “vision of Peace and Good Will.”