Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter

Kerri K. Greenidge. Liveright, $35 (400p) ISBN 978-1-63149-534-2
Tufts University professor Greenidge debuts with a vital, deeply researched biography of William Monroe Trotter, founder, in 1901, of the Guardian, the “weekly newspaper of colored Boston.” Born in 1873 to a former slave turned Union Army lieutenant and a descendant of the Hemings clan once owned by Thomas Jefferson, Trotter graduated from Harvard in 1895 and launched a real estate career that, according to Greenidge, made him “one of the wealthiest black men in New England.” He founded the Guardian as an “arsenal” in the war for civil rights, using the paper’s editorial section to attack the accommodationist policies of Booker T. Washington and expose racial injustices in the Jim Crow South. As an activist, Trotter cofounded the Niagara Movement, a forerunner of the NAACP, with W.E.B. Du Bois in 1905; confronted President Woodrow Wilson over his segregationist policies during a 1914 White House visit; and led protests against the pro–Klu Klux Klan film The Birth of a Nation. But Trotter’s legal entanglements and poor business management skills, Greenidge writes, took a financial toll, and in April 1934 he jumped to his death from a rooftop. Greenidge writes with urgency and clarity while synthesizing a wealth of archival material. Her eye-opening account elegantly traces Trotter’s rise and fall and uncovers early 20th-century Boston as “the center of radical African American politics.” (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 09/04/2019
Release date: 11/19/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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