WilliamMonroe Trotter was a major early twentieth century civil rights activist knownprimarily for launching the first major challenge to the political dominance ofTuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington and as an inspiration for the formation of theNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Trotter was also the founder of the Boston Guardian (1901), the NationalNegro Suffrage League (1905), the Niagara Movement (1905), and the NegroAmerican Political League (1908).
William Trotter was born on April 7, 1872, in Chillicothe, Ohio. His family moved to Hyde Park, Boston, Massachusetts in 1879.At a young age, William was exposed to education and equal rights activism fromhis father James, who was a rare black Democrat who supported New York’s GroverCleveland in his successful bid for President in 1884. Two years later, James Trotter was appointedRecorder of Deeds for Washington by President Cleveland, making him the highest-rankingblack Federal official at the time. William Trotter’s mother was Virginia Isaac Trotter.
Trotter excelled academically in predominantly white schools in Boston and thenentered Harvard College in 1891. Fouryears later he earned his Bachelor degree in international banking with honors(Magna Sum Cum Laude) while becomingthe university’s first black Phi Beta Kappa member. A year later, he received an MA degree fromHarvard in finance. Restricted fromworking as a banker because of his race, Trotter worked in his father’s realestate firm. In 1899, he married equalrights activist Geraldine L. Pindell, who in 1901 became the society editor forthe Boston Guardian, and was anoriginal member of the NAACP. Mrs.Trotter died in the 1918 flu pandemic, leaving Trotter a widower at the age of46.
Trotter is best known for his strident opposition to the racially conciliatorypolicies advocated by Booker T. Washington and his call for a renewed emphasison liberal arts education in contrast to Washington’s promotion of manualtraining. Less well-known is his