W.E.B. DuBois delivered this speech at the second annual meeting of the Niagara Movement on August 16, 1906. The Niagara Movement was an organization dedicated to the general interests of African-Americans. The meeting took place at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, to honor John Brown’s rebellion and death.
DuBois begins by saying that he is asking once again to be heard by America. Conditions are getting worse for African-Americans instead of better, and rights are being taken away instead of given. African-Americans are being denied voting rights, and Jim Crow Laws are spreading and making it hard for African-Americans to travel or go out.
The Niagara Movement vows to never stop protesting these injustices. Black people are entitled to all the rights of American citizenship. In this battle for triumph of ideals, conferring these natural rights on African-Americans is not just beneficial to them, but all true Americans. America is not living up to its ideals set forth by our founders, and we will be shamed by other nations for not delivering on promises of justice and equality. America is currently a great civilization acting cowardly at the notion of Black men becoming the equals of White men, and that is not Christian.
DuBois makes several demands. The most important is full manhood for African-Americans, which comes with the right to vote, to work, and to rise in status.
He demands that all people be allowed the freedom to choose one’s friends and not have friends chosen or prohibited by law. Also, laws must be enforced equally among all people, regardless of race and socioeconomic status, to create a more even distribution of justice. The constitution must also be enforced, especially election fairness and the 14th and 15th amendments. Finally, DuBois wants better Black schools in the South and empowering education that leads to meaningful work and not domestic service for African-American children.
While the Niagara Movement does not condone violence, they do condone John Brown and all the other Black heroes who fought for freedom from slavery. DuBois says they will not compromise their ideals for money or fame like some Black men (probably in reference to Booker T. Washington). He makes an appeal to all the young people who haven’t yet been ruined and calls them to fight for justice.
If immigrants can be accepted into American life, there is no reason African-Americans cannot be also. DuBois ends the speech by saying he feels the promise of coming freedom.