This Day in History: 1872-04-07

Newspaper editor, Boston real estate businessman, and African-American civil rights activist William Monroe Trotter (sometimes just Monroe Trotter) is born. Trotter 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 northern facilities, he began to engage in a life of activism, to which he devoted his assets. Trotter was an early opponent of Booker T. Washington’s accommodationist policies, and in 1901 founded the Boston Guardian, an independent African-American newspaper he used to express that opposition. He joined with W. E. B. Du Bois in founding the Niagara Movement in 1905, a forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His protest activities were sometimes seen to be at cross purposes to those of the NAACP. In 1914, he had a highly publicized meeting with President Woodrow Wilson, in which he protested Wilson’s introduction of segregation into the federal workplace. In Boston, Trotter succeeded in shutting down productions of The Clansman in 1910, but he was unsuccessful in 1915 with screenings of the movie The Birth of a Nation, which also portrayed the Ku Klux Klan in favorable terms. In 1921, in an alliance with Roman Catholics, he got a revival screening of The Birth of a Nation banned. He died on his 62nd birthday. Learn more.