William Monroe Trotter

William Monroe Trotter

William Monroe Trotter (April 7, 1872 - 1934), was born to James Monroe Trotter and Virginia Isaacs Trotter in Chillicothe, Ohio. His father James, son of a Mississippi slave owner, served honorably with the 55th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Colored during the American Civil War. His mother Virginia Isaacs, according to family tradition, was the great-granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson and Mary Hemings, Sally Hemings' sister.Shortly after the war, the Trotters settled in Massachusetts. Their first two children died in infancy, and it was for this reason that young William’s parents had returned to rural Ohio for his birth. At seven months, young William and his parents moved back to Boston where they settled on the South End, far from the predominately African American West Side. The family later moved to suburban Hyde Park, a white neighborhood.

The elder Trotter was a man who broke through most racial obstacles placed before him. During the Civil War he achieved the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He was later appointed Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia by President Grover Cleveland, a role filled by two other prominent men of color of that era, Fredrick Douglass (1881-1886) and Senator Blanche Kelso Bruce (1891-1893). He undoubtedly instilled similar values in his son William, who graduated Valedictorian and President of his high school class. William went on to Harvard University to pursue a career in international banking, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1895, and becoming the first man of color to be awarded a Phi Beta Kappa key. He went on to earn his M.A. from Harvard in 1896. But, even with all his admirable academic achievements, Trotter hit a racial glass ceiling, frustrated in his efforts to excel in his chosen career. It is for this reason that he finally settled on a career in real estate, and later, newspaper publishing.

On June 27, 1899, he married Geraldine Louise Pindell (October 3, 1872 - October 8,1918). In 1901, along with Amherst graduate George Forbes, he co-founded the Boston Guardian, setting up shop in the same building that had once housed William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator. The Guardian’s main target proved to be none other than Booker T. Washington. There were frequent editorials and letters opposing the conservative accommodationist policies of the well known founder of Tuskegee Institute. Along with W. E. B. Du Bois Trotter was a charter member of the Niagara Movement in 1905, an organization of African Americans that renounced the ideas set forth in Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Compromise speech of 1895. Trotter soon left the Niagara Movement to form the National Equal Rights League. The Niagara Movement was instrumental in the later formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909.

As a political activist, William led protests against segregation in the federal government, and picketed the stage production of Thomas Dixon's Birth of a Nation in Boston, ultimately forcing it to close. In the pages of the Guardian, he decried the plight of the Scottsboro boys. In 1912 William helped support Woodrow Wilson for president, who in turn oversaw the segregation, and later expulsion of African American federal employees. William and a group of African Americans went to the White House to protest President Wilson’s actions. Offended by Trotter’s manner and tone, Wilson banned him from the White House for the remainder of his term in office.

On the night of April 7, 1934, William Monroe Trotter either jumped, or fell to his death at his home in Boston. Cause of death was given as “Unspecified”. It was his 62nd birthday. =Note=

W.E.B. Du Bois attests to the influence which Trotter wielded in opposition to Booker T. Washington’s conservative social philosophy:

“This opposition began to become vocal in 1901 when two men, Monroe Trotter, Harvard 1895, and George Forbes, Amherst 1895, began the publication of the "Boston Guardian". The "Guardian" was bitter, satirical, and personal; but it was earnest, and it published facts. It attracted wide attention among colored people; it circulated among them all over the country; it was quoted and discussed. I did not wholly agree with the Guardian, and indeed only a few Negroes did, but nearly all read it and were influenced by it.”

*Excerpt from "Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept", New York, 1940, pp. 72-73 - ISBN 0878559175


*Lewis, David Levering, "W.E.B. Du Bois Biography Of A Race", Owl Books, 1994

*Yenser, Thomas (editor), "Who's Who in Colored America: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Persons of African Descent in America", Who's Who in Colored America, Brooklyn, New York, 1930-1931-1932 (Third Edition)

*Harrison, William, "Phylon" (1940-1956), Vol. 7, No. 3 (3rd Qtr. 1946), pp. 236-245; published by Clark Atlanta University

*"Phylon Profile IX: William Monroe Trotter-Fighter", ISSN: 08856818

=External Links=

* [http://www.answers.com/topic/william-monroe-trotter William M. Trotter Biography]

* [http://www.bookrags.com/William_Monroe_Trotter Encyclopedia of World Biography© on William Monroe Trotter]

* [http://www.naacp.org NAACP Splash ] at www.naacp.org

* [http://www.nndb.com/org/512/000041389/ NNDB - Phi Beta Kappa Society]

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