Our Namesake

Our Namesake

William Monroe Trotter is one of the most unsung and notable graduates of Harvard University. From nonviolent sit-ins to film boycotts, and activist journalism, Trotter’s pioneering social justice and advocacy strategies continue to inform and influence contemporary social justice activists.  

Trotter was born into a well-to-do family and raised in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. He earned his graduate and post-graduate degrees at Harvard University and was the first man of color to earn a Phi Beta Kappa key there.  

Seeing an increase in segregation in the North, he began to engage in a life of activism. In 1905, he joined W. E. B. Du Bois in founding the Niagara Movement – a forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He also co-founded the Boston Guardian, a newspaper that gained prominence both inside and outside of Massachusetts. 

In Boston, Trotter succeeded in shutting down productions of the film The Clansman in 1910. In 1915, Trotter tried to stop with screenings of the movie The Birth of a Nation, which portrayed the Ku Klux Klan in favorable terms. In a highly publicized meeting with President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, Trotter protested Wilson’s introduction of segregation into the federal workplace. And i 1921, in an alliance with Roman Catholics, he got a revival screening of The Birth of a Nation banned. 

 While Trotter’s campaigns against the proliferation of the entrenched racism of his day were often unsuccessful, they illustrate the resiliency and relentlessness with which he approached his work. His untimely death in 1934 cut short a life dedicated to ameliorating racial injustice in the United States 

The Trotter Collaborative draws inspiration from his unrelenting commitment to achieving social justice and civil rights.

William Monroe Trotter
William Monroe Trotter, ca. 1920
Home of William Monroe Trotter in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts.
Home of William Monroe Trotter in Boston, MA. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Birth of a Nation protest
Birth of a Nation protest. (Source: Library of Congress)
Illustrated graphic of William Monroe Trotter standing in front of the office for his newspaper, The Guardian. Trotter is holding a newspaper, and is wearing a three piece suit.
Illustration by Paul Rogers, https://www.paulrogersstudio.com

He had in his soul all that went to make a fanatic, a knight errant. Ready to sacrifice himself, fearing nobody and nothing, strong in body, sturdy in conviction, full of unbending belief

W.E.B. DU Bois

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