Powerful Documentary ‘The Niagara Movement: The Early Battle for Civil Rights’ On THIRTEEN During Black History Month





The Niagara Movement. Credit: Courtesy of WNED Buffalo Toronto Public Media

The WNED PBS original The Niagara Movement: The Early Battle for Civil Rights, an engrossing documentary capturing the conflict between three national Black leaders at the turn of the 20th century over the pathway to Black liberation, will premiere during Black History Month on Thursday, February 15, at 10 p.m. EST on THIRTEEN. Directed by Emmy® Award-winning and two-time Oscar®-nominated filmmaker Lawrence R. Hott, the film shines a spotlight on the fight pitting sociologist W.E.B Du Bois and Boston newspaper publisher William Monroe Trotter against educator and orator Booker T. Washington, then the de facto leader of Black America. The Niagara Movement will also be distributed to public television stations around the country by American Public Television beginning February 1.

File name: NM_P0017_master_CLN. W.E.B. Du Bois. Credit: “from The New York Public Library”

With commentary by prominent scholars and authors like Angela Jones, Aldon Morris, Amilcar Shabazz and Chad Williams, the hour-long film immerses viewers in the conflict between three prominent Black leaders in the early days of the 1900s. While Washington had called the idea of social equality for African-Americans “folly” and urged Blacks “to learn to dignify and glorify common labour,” the repressive Jim Crow laws and widespread lynching that sprung up at the end of Reconstruction pressed Du Bois and Trotter to oppose Washington’s conciliatory tact. The duo helped summon Black intellectuals, clergy, writers, newspapermen and activists from across the country to Buffalo, New York, to plan next steps. To avert disruption by Washington’s supporters, the group of 29 men ultimately met across the Niagara River in Fort Erie, Canada, where they formed a national crusade called The Niagara Movement which called for full rights for African Americans.

File name: NM_P0133. Niagara Movement delegates, Boston, Mass., 1907. Credit: W.E.B. Du Bois Papers, Robert S. Cox Specialist Collections and University Archives Research Center, Mass Amherst Libraries

“We refuse to allow the impression to remain that the Negro-American assents to inferiority, is submissive under oppression, and apologetic before insults,” the group asserted in its 1905 Declaration of Principles — a sharp rebuke to Washington.

The short-lived movement — named to evoke the power of the nearby Niagara Falls and the “mighty current” of protest they hoped to generate — set the tone for the modern American civil rights movement and inspired the formation of the NAACP.

File name: NM_P0007_CLN. Booker T. Washington. Credit: Library of Congress

The Niagara Movement can currently be streamed on Buffalo Toronto Public Media’s YouTube Channel, the PBS app and theniagaramovement.org. The film, which premiered in November on WNED PBS, will re-air on the Buffalo-area station on Friday, Feb. 9, at 10 p.m.

“We are pleased that THIRTEEN is making available this enlightening film which unearths so much history in the long and ongoing fight for civil rights — stories, places and names that should be known by people throughout the U.S. and Canada,” said Tom Calderone, president & CEO of Buffalo Toronto Public Media.

File name: NM_P0059. Niagara Movement Credit: W.E.B. Du Bois Papers, Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center, Mass Amherst Libraries. The Early Battle for Civil Rights, Photo Log.

Additional information, educational resources and bonus materials can be found atwww.theniagaramovement.org. Follow WNED PBS on X (formerly known as Twitter), Facebook and Instagram (@wnedpbs).

Major funding for The Niagara Movement: The Early Battle for Civil Rights was provided by The John R. Oishei Foundation, with additional funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay Inc. – In Memory of Susan Howarth and Visit Buffalo Niagara.

File name: NM_P0134. W.E.B. Du Bois Papers, Robert S. Cox Specialist Collections and University Archives Research Center, Mass Amherst Libraries.

About Buffalo Toronto Public Media:
Buffalo Toronto Public Media engages with our communities through exploration and entertainment — everywhere. Our member-supported services include WNED PBS, WBFO (NPR) (88.7 in Buffalo, 91.3 in Olean, 88.1 in Jamestown), WNED Classical (94.5 in Buffalo, 89.7 WNJA in Jamestown), WBFO The Bridge (88.7 HD2 and 94.5 HD2 in Buffalo), WNED Create and WNED PBS KIDS. WNED PBS is also a national producer of award-winning documentaries. Additional information about Buffalo Toronto Public Media can be found at wned.org.

About American Public Television:
American Public Television (APT) is the leading syndicator of high-quality, top-rated programming to the nation’s public television stations. Founded in 1961, APT distributes 250 new program titles per year and more than one-third of the top 100 highest-rated public television titles in the U.S. APT’s diverse catalog includes prominent documentaries, performance, dramas, how-to programs, classic movies, children’s series and news and current affairs programs. Doc Martin, Midsomer Murders, America’s Test Kitchen From Cook’s Illustrated, AfroPoP, Rick Steves’ Europe, Pacific Heartbeat, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Television, Legacy List with Matt Paxton, Front and Center, Lidia’s Kitchen, Kevin Belton’s New Orleans Kitchen, Simply Ming, The Best of the Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, James Patterson’s Kid Stew and NHK Newsline are a sampling of APT’s programs, considered some of the most popular on public television. APT also licenses programs internationally through its APT Worldwide service and distributes Create®TV — featuring the best of public television’s lifestyle programming — and WORLD™, public television’s premier news, science and documentary channel. To find out more about APT’s programs and services, visit APTonline.org. APT’s newest venture, APT Podcast Studios, presents podcast productions including “If This Food Could Talk,” “Armchair Explorer” and “Gravy.”