W.E.B. DuBois’ legacy unveiled: The Niagara Movement documentary premieres

In honor of W.E.B. DuBois’ 156th birthday on February 23rd, WNED PBS presented its original documentary “The Niagara Movement: The Early Battle for Civil Rights,” shedding light on the influential Black leader. Directed by Lawrence R. Hott, an Emmy Award winner and two-time Oscar nominee, the film delves into the clash between sociologist and author DuBois, Boston newspaper publisher William Monroe Trotter, and educator Booker T. Washington regarding the path to Black liberation at the turn of the 20th century.

W.E.B, du Bois

Now available for streaming on Buffalo Toronto Public Media’s YouTube Channel, the PBS app, and theniagaramovement.org, the documentary also airs on public television stations nationwide, distributed by American Public Television. Featuring insights from prominent scholars and authors such as Angela Jones, Aldon Morris, Amilcar Shabazz, and Chad Williams, the hour-long film immerses audiences in the ideological battle among these pivotal Black leaders of the early 1900s.

While Washington advocated for Black Americans to focus on vocational skills and eschewed the idea of social equality, the rise of Jim Crow laws and rampant lynching following Reconstruction spurred DuBois and Trotter to challenge Washington’s conciliatory approach. Gathering intellectuals, clergy, writers, journalists, and activists in Buffalo, New York, the duo convened a meeting across the Niagara River in Fort Erie, Canada, where they launched the Niagara Movement, advocating for full rights for African Americans.

In their 1905 Declaration of Principles, the group vehemently rejected the notion of Black inferiority, oppression, and apology in the face of insults, directly opposing Washington’s stance. Despite its brief existence, the Niagara Movement, named after the nearby powerful Niagara Falls and symbolizing the forceful current of protest they aimed to ignite, laid the groundwork for the modern American civil rights movement and inspired the founding of the NAACP.

Tom Calderone, president and CEO of Buffalo Toronto Public Media, expressed appreciation for WNET’s dissemination of this enlightening film, which uncovers significant history in the enduring struggle for civil rights, featuring stories, places, and figures that deserve recognition across the United States and Canada.