The Niagara Movement began with a group of 29 African American men led by W. E. B. DuBois who met in Fort Erie, Ontario on July 11, 1905. Other founders include William Monroe Trotter, Frederick McGhee and C E Bentley. There are claims that the group met in Canada because they were denied accommodations in neighboring Buffalo, but it is more likely that they wanted a more secluded spot to gather or were unable to find space due to an Elks' convention. Their purpose was to seek equality in housing, education, the judicial system, the military, employment, and other areas of life in which it was denied during the Jim Crow era. They stood in direct contrast to the gradualist and conciliatory views of Booker T. Washington as expressed in his 1895 Atlanta Compromise speech.
Meetings in subsequent years were held at historically significant sites such as Harper's Ferry, West Virginia; Faneuil Hall, Boston; and Oberlin, Ohio. (The first meeting place had been chosen because of the importance of Western New York in the Underground Railroad.) Although there were local civil rights victories, the group was never able to grow beyond about 200 members because of lack of funding and staff, as well as opposition by Washington and his supporters.
Reaction to the Springfield Race Riots of 1908 galvanized white allies connected to the Niagara Movement, including Mary White Ovington, who had been invited to join. Ovington and others merged with the Niagara Movement to form the NAACP the following year. Dr. DuBois became the only African American member of the founding Board of Directors, and his leadership provided continuity between the two organizations. The Niagara Movement formally disbanded in 1911.