Strange Fruit, Rotting on the Ground

For the past month or so, I’ve been working on a class on medieval Christianity and before that I was dealing with a full load of four courses. It was my intention to do a number of posts on various aspects of the medieval church, but recent events have caused me to change my plans.

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The Niagara Movement: The Black Lives Matter Movement of the Early Twentieth Century

110 years ago, the Niagara Movement was founded by black civil rights activist (and fellow nonbeliever) W.E.B. Dubois to directly confront racism in American society. Unlike the “accomodationist” tactic advocated by Booker T. Washington, Dubois believed that blacks needed to attack racist laws and customs head-on, and not wait for some far-off day when whites would be prepared to accept them as equals. A PDF of the Niagara Movement’s goals and philosophy can be found here:

http://scua.library.umass.edu/collections/etext/dubois/niagara.pdf

While much of what the Niagara Movement wanted seems like common sense (e.g., universal suffrage, the end of peonage in the South, free, compulsory, and integrated high schools for children of all races, equal treatment before the law), it was considered shocking and radical by the standards of the early twentieth century, and even many black leaders thought that Dubois and his followers were being too bold. What is depressing for me, as I read the goals of the Niagrara Movement 110 years after the fact, is that many of the demands it states have yet to be properly implemented in the post-Civil Rights era.

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