First Civil Rights meeting in the U.S. was held in Harpers Ferry, WV in 1906

First Civil Rights meeting in the U.S. was held in Harpers Ferry, WV in 1906
Jefferson County Historical Series
By Bob O'Connor

When you think of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, you don't necessarily think of Harpers Ferry. Actually the first Civil Rights meeting on U.S. soil was held in August of 1906.
The Niagara Movement, led by WEB Dubois, had met a year earlier in Niagara Falls, New York but they were not allowed to stay on the American side. Their 2nd meeting held in Harpers Ferry on the campus of Storer College promoted its purpose as to "promote the equality of the races." The delegation was concerned with women's suffrage, Civil liberties, economic opportunities equal to those the whites enjoyed, decent housing, and equal access to an American public education.
The movement was also concerned with equality in the judicial system including equal punishments, equal efforts for reformation and the removal of discrimination from the selection of juries. Delegates asked for facilities for juvenile delinquents, dependent children and the abolishment of the antiquated convict lease program. Labor unions and employers were challenged to offer Negro-Americans permanent employment. And they wanted black soldiers accepted in the service academies as well as treating black soldiers more fairly n regard to promotions. They called on the government to enforce the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The group established their Declaration of Principles, which made clear that any practice of segregation and discrimination against Negroes was intolerable at any level.
Dubois called the meeting "one of the greatest meetings that American Negroes ever held."
Male and female members of the Niagara Movement walked to the hallowed ground of John Brown's fort and took their shoes off to honor the abolitionist who had given his life for the freeing of the Negroes held in slavery. The delegates to the conference sang "John Brown's Body" and placed carnations at the site of the John Brown fort, at the time located on the Murphy Farm.
Brown had led a raid on the federal arsenal on October16, 1859 to get the guns and give them to slaves, to try to put the institution of slavery out of business. He was captured, tried, found guilty of murder, inciting slaves to rebel and treason. He was hanged on December 2, 1859 in nearby Charles Town.
At the commemoration ceremony, Reverdy G. Ransom of Boston, declared that Brown had been sent to Harpers Ferry by God "to become a traitor to the government in order that he might be true to the slave." Ransom also said "the present occupant of the White House has been absolutely silent on the question of the enforcement of the fifteenth amendment (which prohibits each government in the United States from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude"(i.e., slavery).
The meeting itself failed to gather much media coverage and is not a well known event. One of the outcomes of the Niagara Movement at Harpers Ferry was the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) several years later.