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William and Rod Trotter belong to the generations preceding him following him. Perhaps more of the belong to his own. Born in 1872 died 1934. He carried the torch for the crusade of moral suasion and militant direct action in the period between the abolitionist and the civil rights movement. Throughout his lifetime Trotter held to a 19th century through an independence of conscience and action and to the hope of a total obliteration of any and all personal privileges based on race family background had an immense effect on Trotter his father had been a black abolitionist and later heroic major of the Massachusetts 50:50 volunteers during the Civil War. William was born in that hotbed of anti-slavery sentiment. The area of the Western Reserve of Ohio while he was a young child the family moved to Boston there the Trotters socialized in the company of the second generation of immortal New England liberals of old
liberalism which had become a bit jaded with strong overtones of Boston snobbery but nonetheless one that provided a sno social world of a living legend of Emerson Thoreau Garrison Whittier etc. in some the finest America has had to offer in Bush morality. Young Trotter showed his loyalty to this tradition while a student at Harvard. There he joined the total abstinence temperance society along with the son of another abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison Jr.. Trotter was also involved with the Harvard debating society which was along with temperance something of an expected vocation for the inheritors of Bostonian liberalism. The most important Todd of the past for young Trotter was his militant father James Monroe who had lived through the storming of Fort Wagner and was not going to be deterred by the social brickbats of prejudice and segregation. The elder Trotter would not live in a segregated neighborhood
and he did not become a minister because he would not be a pastor in a segregated church. As young Trotter incorporated the militancy of the past became to develop a strong inner directed morality which enabled him to hold beliefs and take actions regardless of the popular opinions of the day. The virtue of his uncompromising independence was also his liability. He could not work effectively with others even those he chose to work with and there were a few whom he chose as associates. Trotters freshman year at Harvard was the senior year for WB two boys in the latter tells how of how there were few negroes and Harvard at that time and how Trotter was uninterested in making friends with his black upper classman lower class. The boys notes that Trotter was even then forming a philosophy of life and a philosophy of life whereby
according to boys college students must not herd together just because they were colored. Dubois says that Trotter did not seek other colored students as companions. Trotter went on to become the first Negro Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard. And after graduating he went into a promising real estate business. His father having left him a large sum of money saved from his government job as a recorder of deeds in the days when recorders were paid fees for filing young trotters heart though it was not in business in 1901 along with GEORGE FORBES he began publication of The Weekly Boston Guardian which would be as well as garrisons old Boston liberate or as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice. Through the Guardian Trotter exhorted Negroes to defend their rights urging them quote Let us be worthy of the abolitionist his real estate business was given up
entirely in 1906 after which he went on to help organize the Niagara Movement and generally become involved in full time fighting of conservatism of Legros and whites in particular he became a noted enemy of Booker T Washington. Trotters uncompromising House still ity to Washington was of course to be expected from one who would not. Compromise in the slightest with segregation or prejudiced. However the strategy of trotters attack on Washington was not so obvious. It should be noted that Trotter refused to participate in the founding of the NWA Sepi which was the culmination of the anti Washington fight and the reasons given had to do with what Trotter considered a takeover by white outsiders of the workings of the proposed new organization. And this begs the question why would Trotter be concerned with which race rammed
Watsons he was opposed to the raising of any and all distinctions of race. All part of the answer is that he found one of his fellow second generation abolitionists conspiring with Booker T Washington for the guilty party was a bald Garrison Billard who had been quietly friendly with Washington and had raised a million and a half dollars for the Tuskegee endowment and had tried to interest Washington in participating in the formation of the end of the ICP. The second reason has to do with the just overall question of nationalism and integration and how is it possible for Negras to to act effectively if they stick strictly and entirely merely to an integration ist mistake at all causes. Trotter infighting in Washington the conservatism of let us go it alone. Washington found that he had to work with the
negro society. That is to fight Washington he had to band together with other Nigro who would fight Washington and try to became an active member in a number of Negro protest and civic organizations one of which was the Niagara Movement. A second was the Afro-American Council a sort of national negro convention movement of the late 19th centuries late 19th century which tried to help swing away from Washington control of the third organization of the Constitution league and common to all three of these organizations was a dominant social base of middle class neg rows. And they may have been radical middle class micros but nonetheless middle class and showing a pro American way of life militancy. It was a segment of Negro society with a long history of cooperation with philanthropic liberals. Boston
cooperation with the right liberal middle class. Consequently when the black liberal of Boston Trotter came to work with his own people it would be mostly with the negro middle class. And these ties to black professionals businessmen and educators were productive in the dark years of 1900 to 1910. Then in post-World War one period of socialism and nationalism the black middle class became a drag on the wheels of progress which were then being rolled forward by mass pressure mass organizations and proletarian radicalism rather than three or four generational bouge do gooder ism. Trotter however never moved beyond his original narrow base and its moralising approach to social problems in place of the end of the ICP try to organize his own National Equal Rights League which would be a virtual one man show
existing until his untimely death and 1934. The league drew its support from the enlightened of the negro middle class which Trotter had been associated. In his early anti Washington fights. There was very little of an organizational structure in this organization but it was a nonetheless a very important one during the 20s and up until trotters death and 34 as Dr. Dubois pointed out. Trotter quote was a free lance too intense and sturdy to loan him self to that compromise which is the basis of all organization. Philip Randolph concurred that although Trotter was quote quite inspirational and outspoken he was a man who quote never had any sound organizational techniques unquote. And Trotter had repeated trouble in raising money for is any RL National Equal Rights League supporter John Hope of Morehouse College once proposed that since no one could ever tell whether he owed Trotter
two dollars or five it would be far more practical to simply send an annual $5 check to cover dues emergency fund drives and lost contributions. A sign of where the ne r l stood in the political spectrum is the support given it by that portion of the Negril press which represented the old black liberals of the 1890 1910 period. Calvin chace of the Washington be at the utmost respect for Trotter and his league and Chase had been an early anti Washington man by World War one chases liberalism was confined primarily to supporting trotter in the end of the ICP economic radicalism and Garvey ism being beyond his ideological grasp. The one time Knights of labor supporter Harry Smith of the Cleveland because that was favorable to Trotter by World War 1 Smith was seemingly relinquishing all study of economics to the younger generation and busying himself and boring within the Ohio Republican Party.
They Conservative New York AJ paper tightly controlled by Washington forces was none the less than enthusiastic reporter of any RL activities. The age editor Fred Moore categorized Trotter as a shining model of integrity and proper action for Negras as contrasted with black socialist and Garvey ites both of whom or denounced with passionate invective. It is worthy of note that Trotter was not averse to cooperating himself with garbage and left us. He once offered himself for a high position in the Garvey movement in one thousand twenty the U.N. I propose the creation of a black house in Washington to be used by race lobbyist. Trotter attended the association convention and campaign for the post but failed to be elected. In one thousand twenty three try to went to New York to get Cyril Briggs and the African blood brotherhood that radical left this little organization of the time to
help promote a negro send handwritten to be apprised of leading negro organizations of the day in the Sanhedrin became one of the major. The events of the decade and did include a wide variety of organizations most of which were conservative rather than left leaning. During the 1930s Trotter would cooperate with left organizations in Boston his activities in the NDR Al really give a picture of the man and what is its overall outlook during this the 1920s and 30s the period we're concerned with here. It was something of a study in Promethea an effort that is looking at Trotter and his little organization. He didn't have much mass support. They seem to prefer the individual act and a
particular he was noted for always being on top of the scene with a petition or telegram to national leaders concerning problems of the Negrito he seemed preoccupied more so than most other leaders of the day with reaching the leaders of white America personally. This seemed to be a sign in his confidence and America in its leadership class. The white abolitionist had been of the best stock of the old middle class. Liberal America. Trotter would have the best of middle class liberal white America live up to its traditions. Trotters most celebrated con fab with a white leader was his White House meeting with Woodrow Wilson in one thousand sixteen. He had demanded and received an opportunity to meet with Wilson to discuss segregation policies of the federal government. Wilson had instituted some segregation in the civil service in Washington
D.C. and at the meeting trotters personal integrity didn't sit well with the Virginia born president and the discussion broke up with a hot exchange of words and a presidential declaration for Trotter never to show his face in the White House again. And Wilson went on with more. Vicious discrimination tried it would be back however to see Harding and to see Coolidge. The convening of the versts Peace Conference in 1919 created great interest among Afro Americans in as much as it was a conference to discuss the rights of nations and self-determination Trotter was a leading figure in a move to amass a large delegation of American Negroes to attend the conference and persuaded to write a human white rights covenant which would be applicable to citizens of all countries. The racist U.S. State Department voided the Negrito right to travel for purposes of attending the conference. But Trotter wasn't a turd he smuggled himself out of the country in the guise of a ship's
cook. He arrived in France too late to attend the bourses Pan African Congress. He busied himself trying to get an audience with Clem and so on Wilson and in a futile attempt to address the league of nations founding. But Trotter did manage to create a stir in the French press through detailed news releases covering lynchings and other white American barbarisms against the Negril try to return to America at the time of a nationwide furor over the Chicago and Washington DC race riots of 1919 a Harlem any RL meeting to welcome her home turned into a community forum on the riots. Speaker after speaker rose to denounce white America not bothering to distinguish between racist Americans and others. The distinction held by Trotter this was one that any RL meeting which drew its audience from a wide segment of the Negro community. The
reaction of Trotter to the riots of 1919 was to send telegrams to mayors and governors of cities and states involved. He sent a telegram to the governor of Nebraska demanding fair treatment for Negroes in the Omaha riot. The Maire of Chicago and the governor of Illinois received telegrams demanding protection Negras and Chicago. Among his many efforts to petition and reason with the power structure was an attempt to end Jim Crow railroad cars and interstate commerce in November of 1900 petitioned every Northern member of the House of Representatives to ask them to include an amendment to the Federal Rail Road bill to prohibit such segregation in interstate commerce. Also in 1919 Trotter addressed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his request to present demands for a human rights covenant to be included in the ratification of the verse Sinai peace pact. Neither of which covenant nor ratification came to pass.
Aside from petitions Trotter was known for direct action around Boston he could be counted on to make himself known in any issue involving the negro. When Booker T Washington tried to speak in Boston in 1902 Trotter prepared a jarring welcome at the scheduled rally for Washington Trotter rose from the audience to ask a few well-chosen questions. The commotion that followed was termed in exaggeration the Boston riot the climax of which was Trotter being hauled off to jail. And a variety of little ways try to through the years fought prejudice and discrimination where every could be fought a long and successful battle to keep a negro Y.M.C.A. out of Boston. The pro Klu Klux Klan film Birth of a nation was banned in Boston through his vigorous protest while traveling through Iowa in 1921 as part of a nationwide any RL tour Trotter him as manager or refused service at a restaurant in the town of Osaka Lusaka and try to press charges in a civil
suit and when his tour was over returned to Iowa to follow through with the case and to give a few more lectures for the NE R. L.. Probably the ultimate in his opposition to distinctions of race was his prohibition of the use of the word Negro in the Guardian. Announcing this editorial policy just have to World War One tried it wrote. If you were born in America you are American. If a descriptive now must be used then the words black American can be used correctly. The word Negro places all black Americans in an inferior tribe of people. We may be of African extraction it is true but after a clan of people have lived in any country 300 years certainly it can be assumed that this extraction could be left out and black American be used as a correct and legitimate title. What was accomplished during trotters life already
accomplishing his activities. He died a reported suicide in 1034 diving out of a window in the wee hours of the morning at the close of a cocktail party in the press reports of his death there was no inference of him feeling a sense of failure in his work and there is a possibility that he fell accidentally Although his life again is a fight against racism may have gone unrewarded it was a good fight. His vision of future freedom in a nonracial world was in large part shared by the liberals of the NWA Sepi an Urban League and socialist and communist like during the 1920s and 30s. As for is personal isolation it was in part his own doing. He was an uncompromising individualists and he did not seek coalitions. Then again he was isolated from the Negro masses because either wittingly or unwittingly he was a representative of the respectable Negra
William Monroe Trotter (Episode 14 of 14)
Black power origins
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KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
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Pacifica Radio Archives (North Hollywood, California)
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In the last episode of the 14-part series, Ted Vincent discusses William Monroe Trotter, a civil rights militant from a Boston family of abolitionists. From 1900-1934, Trotter was a one-man CORE and SNCC.
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Race and Ethnicity
Trotter, William Monroe, 1872-1934; African Americans--Civil rights--History
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Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
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Pacifica Radio Archives
Identifier: 15719_D01 (Pacifica Radio Archives)
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Chicago: “William Monroe Trotter (Episode 14 of 14); Black power origins,” 1967-11-11, Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020,
MLA: “William Monroe Trotter (Episode 14 of 14); Black power origins.” 1967-11-11. Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <>.
APA: William Monroe Trotter (Episode 14 of 14); Black power origins. Boston, MA: Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from