Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Monroe Trotter Meets President Woodrow Wilson

Monroe Trotter (1872-1934) did not blend into the crowd. He stood out and stood up, raising his voice unapologetic on behalf of what he believed was right. That was his agenda as orator and as editor of the Boston Guardian , which he founded in 1901.
Mr. Monroe Trotter. Mr. President, we are here to renew our protest against the segregation of colored employees in the departments of our National Government. We [had] appealed to you to undo this race segregation in accord with your duty as President and with your pre-election pledges to colored American voters. We stated that such segregation was a public humiliation and degradation, and entirely unmerited and far-reaching in its injurious effects. . . .

In an undated photograph, Dr. Charles Steward stands near the entrance of “The Guardian,” the weekly newspaper started by his brother-in-law William Monroe Trotter. Steward and his wife, Maude, ran the paper after Trotter’s death in 1934. Maude died in 1957 and with Dr. Steward’s blessing, Melvin B. Miller started the Banner eight years later. (Banner file photo)
President Woodrow Wilson. The white people of the country, as well as I, wish to see the colored people progress, and admire the progress they have already made, and want to see them continue along independent lines. There is, however, a great prejudice against colored people. . . . It will take one hundred years to eradicate this prejudice, and we must deal with it as practical men. Segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen. If your organization goes out and tells the colored people of the country that it is a humiliation, they will so regard it, but if you do not tell them so, and regard it rather as a benefit, they will regard it the same. The only harm that will come will be if you cause them to think it is a humiliation.
In 1912 Trotter helped support Woodrow Wilson for president, who disappointed his supporters by allowing the re-segregation of workspaces in several federal agencies. As a political activist, Trotter led several protests against segregation in the federal government.
Mr. Monroe Trotter: "It is not in accord with the known facts to claim that the segregation was started because of race friction of white and colored [federal] clerks. The indisputable facts of the situation will not permit of the claim that the segregation is due to the friction. It is untenable, in view of the established facts, to maintain that the segregation is simply to avoid race friction, for the simple reason that for fifty years white and colored clerks have been working together in peace and harmony and friendliness, doing so even through two [President Grover Cleveland] Democratic administrations. Soon after your inauguration began, segregation was drastically introduced in the Treasury and Postal departments by your appointees."

Trotter and a group of African Americans went to the White House to protest President Wilson’s actions. Offended by Trotter’s manner and tone during their meeting, Wilson banned him from the White House for the remainder of his term in office.

President Woodrow Wilson: "If this organization is ever to have another hearing before me it must have another spokesman. Your manner offends me. . . . Your tone, with its background of passion."

Mr. Monroe Trotter: "But I have no passion in me, Mr. President, you are entirely mistaken; you misinterpret my earnestness for passion."


  1. I found my way here because the Boston Guardian was mentioned in regards to the Columbus Avenue AME Zion Church in Boston. Many of the church people were fr North Carolina and Virginia AMD I washoping to find some old articles

    1. Hey Ripama:

      If someone needs a biography or a biopic it's Monroe Trotter. He is one of the most interesting and least remembered by history of that generation of W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey. His lineage or as you would say, his genetics, comes directly from Thomas Jefferson. His people were the ones who were auctioned by Jeffy Jefferson after to pay off the debts of Thomas Jefferson....his grandfather or father (see we need more historical research) was the son of Thomas Jefferson. They ended up in New Orleans after the liquidation of Jefferson's human property. He ran away from the plantation and lived as fugitive "freeman" in Boston.

      Monroe Trotter's newspaper was printed at the same location as the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. He founded the Niagara Movement with DuBois, but split when DuBois joined the NAACP because he thought it would dilute the issues concerning African Americans. He absolutely hated Booker T. Washington (unlike DuBois, who gets remembered for the feud with Booker T., but Booker T. and DuBois remained friends).....

      I, too, want to know more about the church, the Free Masons, and the other groups in Boston. I'm having difficulty locating ANY of Monroe Trotter's writings or publications online ... perhaps there is an archive with the writings and correspondences of Monroe Trotter somewhere. Also, T. Thomas Fortune and Reverty Ransom. How do we lose such strong voices (albeit controversial) to history's dustbin?

      If you find more information on the church or the organizations in Boston, just post it somewhere on this blog, I'm the webmaster and I'll be able to find it wherever you post it.

      Thanks for coming by to hangout with me and the ghost :)

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog


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