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Birthplace of the NAACP

Birthplace of the NAACP: Niagara Falls

Birthplace of the NAACP: Niagara Falls


The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has played a crucial role in the civil rights movement in the United States. Its formation in 1909 marked a significant step towards promoting equality and ensuring the rights of African Americans. Although the NAACP’s national headquarters was established in New York City, its birthplace is often attributed to Niagara Falls, a city known for its natural wonders and as a site of historical significance.

The Setting

Niagara Falls, located on the border between the United States and Canada, has long been a site of cultural exchange and activism. Its proximity to Canada, a haven for fugitive slaves seeking freedom through the Underground Railroad, made it a strategically significant location during the 19th-century abolitionist movement.

The Urgency for Change

As the 20th century dawned, racial tensions and discrimination against African Americans were pervasive across the United States. In this climate of inequality, several prominent activists and intellectuals began discussing the need for a national organization dedicated to addressing racial injustice and promoting equal rights for all citizens.

The Niagara Movement

In July 1905, a group of African American intellectuals, led by scholar and reformer W.E.B. Du Bois, convened at the Erie Beach Hotel in Fort Erie, just across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York. This gathering, widely regarded as the birth of the modern civil rights movement, became known as the Niagara Movement.

The Niagara Movement’s primary aim was to address the social, economic, and political challenges faced by African Americans. The organization fought for equal access to education, voting rights, and an end to segregation in all aspects of American life. While the Niagara Movement faced significant opposition, it laid the foundation for future civil rights activities and directly contributed to the formation of the NAACP.

The Founding of the NAACP

In response to the challenges and setbacks experienced by the Niagara Movement, a multiracial group of activists, including prominent white liberals Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard, organized a meeting on February 12, 1909. This meeting, dubbed the National Negro Committee, aimed to establish an organization that would unite forces and work collectively to combat racial injustices.

While this meeting took place in New York City, it was at a crucial point during the gathering that Niagara Falls became intrinsically linked to the future of the organization.

The Meeting at Niagara Falls

During the gathering in New York City, William English Walling, a prominent white socialist, proposed that the group hold their next meeting at Niagara Falls. Walling believed that Niagara Falls epitomized the power and unity needed to confront the challenges of racial discrimination.

On July 11, 1909, the group reconvened at the Honeymoon Bridge, situated between the American and Canadian sides of the falls. This meeting, marked as the Niagara Conference, resulted in the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The Impact of the NAACP

From its inception, the NAACP became a vital force in the fight against racial discrimination. The organization spearheaded legal challenges to segregation laws, helped fight for equality in education and employment, and provided a platform for African American voices to be heard and represented.

In Niagara Falls, the NAACP actively worked to combat local instances of racism and discrimination. It played a significant role in advocating for equal access to education, housing, and employment opportunities for African Americans in the region.

Legacy and Continuing Struggles

The birthplace of the NAACP in Niagara Falls serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for racial equality. While progress has been made since its founding, systemic racism and discrimination persist in various forms.

Today, the Niagara Falls branch of the NAACP continues to advocate for social justice, equality, and fight against racial injustice in the community. The organization’s efforts serve as a testament to the lasting impact of its birthplace and the ongoing struggle for a more inclusive society.


The birthplace of the NAACP may officially be recognized as New York City, but its roots stretch back to the powerful and historically significant Niagara Falls. It was there that the Niagara Movement laid the groundwork for the formation of the NAACP, cementing the city’s place in the annals of civil rights history. Niagara Falls continues to be a symbol of hope, unity, and the ongoing fight for racial equality.

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