William Monroe Trotter

Dates Alive: 1872-1934

Family: Fossett, Hemings, Hern

Occupation: Newspaper editor; Activist

William Monroe Trotter, the most famous of known descendants of Monticello’s enslaved families, was the son of Virginia Isaacs and James Monroe Trotter. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, which he viewed as the exemplar of “real democracy.” But his world began to contract, as the Jim Crow line moved inexorably up from the south. He gave up a lucrative real estate business to start a newspaper, the Boston Guardian, and raised his voice against the accommodationist principles of Booker T. Washington. In 1905 he and W. E. B. Du Bois took the lead in founding the Niagara Movement, the precursor of the NAACP.

In his long, militant and uncompromising fight for “full equality in all things governmental, political, civil and judicial,” Trotter presented petitions, led picketing and demonstrations, and confronted presidents in the White House. His last national effort was described at the time as a movement for “the fulfillment of the preamble of the Declaration of Independence.”


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“The Strength She Gave Him In The Battle”

Trotter’s Tribute To His Mother /  VIRGINIA ISAACS TROTTER / April 25, 1842—October 16, 1919 /  MOTHER / Mother love…
“The Strength She Gave Him In The Battle”

William Monroe Trotter pays tribute to his mother, Virginia Isaacs Trotter.

Trotter’s Tribute To His Mother /  VIRGINIA ISAACS TROTTER / April 25, 1842—October 16, 1919 /  MOTHER /

Mother love she had for her children in all its tenderness and sternness, in all its earnestness and pleasantry, in all its ambitiousness and indulgence, in all its love and leniency, yet with hope and strong appeal for their rectitude and achievement.

As all real mothers do, she labored for them and with them, holding high the standard for private life and public attitude.  Born in her [line or lines evidently left out] from her saintly mother was her devotion to God and to moral ideals, and from her father, Tucker Isaacs, brave devotion to liberty and equality without the insult of restriction because of color.  Her husband held racial self-respect and assertion of rights above all else.

Thus it was she taught her son to stand against any denial of right because of race as a principle of self-respect.  It was not strange she encouraged him when he entered the lists against race discrimination as only a true mother can, daily offered him cheer and confidence, and backed him for organ and organization with her earthly means.  The strength she gave him in the battle never can be his as when she maintained her aid and interest until heart and mind were stilled by death itself.  That her sacrifice may not have been in vain we fight on.  God give us strength and success and give her bliss above.

Her son, / WM. MONROE TROTTER. October 16, 1930. (Philadelphia Tribune, 7 Apr. 1932)