Today in Boston by Ethan Underhill: 4/7/1934 — The Guardian 🔱

It might have been a fall.

It might have been a jump.

We don’t know.

Either way, today in Boston, 1934, on his 62nd birthday, passersby found William Monroe Trotter dead on his lawn, having fallen from the roof.

It was a tragic end for a tragic hero who played life and its flawed systems by his own set of rules.

Born today in 1872 to Virginia Isaacs, the daughter of a former Monticello slave, and James Trotter, the first black man promoted to lieutenant in the Union Army’s Massachusetts 55th, Monroe Trotter learned early that he was inheriting a new kind of African American experience — one where discrimination was much more nuanced.

This vigilance served him well as he graduated valedictorian from the majority-white Hyde Park High School and became the first man of color to win a Phi Beta Kappa key at Harvard in 1895.

Establishing roots in Boston’s real estate game as the 20th century turned, Trotter found himself — along with W.E.B. Du Bois — increasingly at odds with the celebrity of Booker T. Washington, who promoted black education and entrepreneurship over legal challenges to Jim Crow.

Trotter’s offense to this line of thought led to his founding of the “Boston Guardian” newspaper. It also strengthened his bond with Du Bois, which would unfortunately erode through the years over their own differences of what true equality in America looked like 🇺🇸

It also produced an epic public feud with Woodrow Wilson over the President’s own shameful racism.

As he once said quite plainly:

“My vocation has been to wage a crusade against lynching, disenfranchisement, peonage, public segregation, injustice, denial of service in public places for color, in war time and peace.”

Now, @dirtyoldboston, I don’t know if you can fit that on a shirt, but if you can, I’m sure as hell buying it.

Alienated as he might have been by the end of his life, Monroe Trotter’s theories and methods are often credited as important precursors to the direct action young activists took as the civil rights movement truly picked up steam in the 50s and 60s.

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