African American Civil Rights
Early Activism and the Niagara Movement
by Angela Jones
August 2011, 281pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-39360-0
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-0-313-39361-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

America’s civil rights movement was not solely a mid-20th century phenomenon. Meaningful civil rights activism can be traced at least to 1905, when W.E.B. Dubois and others founded the Niagara Movement. Far from inconsequential, the efforts of these pioneers brought the cause to public attention, paving the way for all that came after.

This fresh and invigorating analysis illuminates the often-neglected story of early African American civil rights activism.

African American Civil Rights: Early Activism and the Niagara Movement tells a fascinating story, one that is too frequently marginalized. Offering the first full-length, comprehensive sociological analysis of the Niagara Movement, which existed between 1905 and 1910, the book demonstrates that, although short-lived, the movement was far from a failure. Rather, it made the need to annihilate Jim Crow and address the atrocities caused by slavery publicly visible, creating a foundation for more widely celebrated mid-20th-century achievements.

This unique study focuses on what author Angela Jones terms black publics, groups of concerned citizens—men and women, alike—who met to shift public opinion. The book explores their pivotal role in initiating the civil rights movement, specifically examining secular organizations, intellectual circles, the secular black press, black honor societies and clubs, and prestigious educational networks. All of these, Jones convincingly demonstrates, were seminal to the development of civil rights protest in the early 20th century.


  • Primary source documents including the Niagara Movement's "Declaration of Principles"
  • A chronology of the development of the civil rights movement
  • Photographs of key players in the Niagara Movement
  • An expansive bibliography encompassing titles from sociology, political science, and history
Angela Jones, PhD, is assistant professor of sociology at Farmingdale State College, State University of New York.


"Jones is right to point our attention to dialogue and debate as underappreciated facets of early civil rights activism. She does so compellingly with fine and creative use of primary documents (many of which are reproduced in the text or elaborated in an appendix)."—American Journal of Sociology, March 1, 2013

"In recent years our understanding of the African-American freedom struggle has been greatly enhanced by scholarship on what has come to be known as the 'long' civil rights movement. In contrast to the canonical struggle, this long movement began well before Montgomery and extended well after King’s death. But even with all the welcome attention to earlier chapters in the struggle, glaring omissions remain. With this book, one of the most significant of these holes has been filled. Jones’ rich history of the Niagara Movement restores the precursor to the NAACP to its rightful place in the amended history of the movement."—Douglas Mcadam author of Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency

“Angela Jones is a superb historian who tells a poignant story and subtle analysis of the premier civil rights organization in America. Don’t miss her powerful book!” —Cornel West, Princeton University

"Leaders of this 'movement of words'—eloquent, combative, and theatrical figures like Monroe Trotter, J. Max Barber, and W.E.B Dubois—used public debates and the new black press to publicize a radical alternative to Booker T. Washington’s accommodationism. They effectively created a new black public, one committed to equal rights and political power, without which the modern civil rights movement would have been impossible. More than a fascinating history of a little known organization, African American Civil Rights advances a theory of movement emergence that is sure to prove influential in future scholarship on this and other movements." —Francesca Polletta, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Irvine

“Angela Jones-Zapasnik’s African American Civil Rights fills an important gap in the history of African American liberation struggles. Her richly detailed, careful history makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the Niagara Movement as a key step in the creation of what the author aptly characterizes as ‘black publics,’ a key stage in the ongoing story of civil rights.” —T.V. Reed, Buchanan Distinguished Professor American Studies and English, Washington State University, and Author of The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle
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