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Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter

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William Monroe Trotter (1872– 1934), though still virtually unknown to the wider public, was an unlikely American hero. With the stylistic verve of a newspaperman and the unwavering fearlessness of an emancipator, he galvanized black working- class citizens to wield their political power despite the violent racism of post- Reconstruction America. For more than thirty years William Monroe Trotter (1872– 1934), though still virtually unknown to the wider public, was an unlikely American hero. With the stylistic verve of a newspaperman and the unwavering fearlessness of an emancipator, he galvanized black working- class citizens to wield their political power despite the violent racism of post- Reconstruction America. For more than thirty years, the Harvard-educated Trotter edited and published the Guardian, a weekly Boston newspaper that was read across the nation. Defining himself against the gradualist politics of Booker T. Washington and the elitism of W. E. B. Du Bois, Trotter advocated for a radical vision of black liberation that prefigured leaders such as Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. Synthesizing years of archival research, historian Kerri Greenidge renders the drama of turn- of- the- century America and reclaims Trotter as a seminal figure, whose prophetic, yet ultimately tragic, life offers a link between the vision of Frederick Douglass and black radicalism in the modern era.


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William Monroe Trotter (1872– 1934), though still virtually unknown to the wider public, was an unlikely American hero. With the stylistic verve of a newspaperman and the unwavering fearlessness of an emancipator, he galvanized black working- class citizens to wield their political power despite the violent racism of post- Reconstruction America. For more than thirty years William Monroe Trotter (1872– 1934), though still virtually unknown to the wider public, was an unlikely American hero. With the stylistic verve of a newspaperman and the unwavering fearlessness of an emancipator, he galvanized black working- class citizens to wield their political power despite the violent racism of post- Reconstruction America. For more than thirty years, the Harvard-educated Trotter edited and published the Guardian, a weekly Boston newspaper that was read across the nation. Defining himself against the gradualist politics of Booker T. Washington and the elitism of W. E. B. Du Bois, Trotter advocated for a radical vision of black liberation that prefigured leaders such as Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. Synthesizing years of archival research, historian Kerri Greenidge renders the drama of turn- of- the- century America and reclaims Trotter as a seminal figure, whose prophetic, yet ultimately tragic, life offers a link between the vision of Frederick Douglass and black radicalism in the modern era.

30 review for Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Well researched and full of insight into early 20th-century America, Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter sketches the turbulent career of the titular militant Black journalist. Hailing from an elite family heavily involved in radical anti-racist politics, Trotter was the publisher of the Guardian, a Boston weekly with regional reach, and a leading member of activist groups such as the Niagara Movement. He used his sensational weekly, author Kerri Greenidge makes clear, to Well researched and full of insight into early 20th-century America, Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter sketches the turbulent career of the titular militant Black journalist. Hailing from an elite family heavily involved in radical anti-racist politics, Trotter was the publisher of the Guardian, a Boston weekly with regional reach, and a leading member of activist groups such as the Niagara Movement. He used his sensational weekly, author Kerri Greenidge makes clear, to popularize his political agenda, rallying Black people to mass action and calling upon them to exert their electoral power at a time when such methods were highly stigmatized. His uninhibited rage and defense of the working class stood in sharp contrast to Booker T. Washington's respectability politics as well as W. E. B. Du Bois's top-down approach to racial justice, though all three shared a patriarchal view of society. Greenidge draws a well-defined portrait of Trotter and seamlessly embeds social history into her account of his life. The biography lags at points, but offers an abundance of information about turn-of-the-century and interwar America.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Casey Cep

    Reviewed this remarkable biography of William Monroe Trotter for The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20... Wonderful use of one life to illuminate a broader intellectual movement. Reviewed this remarkable biography of William Monroe Trotter for The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20... Wonderful use of one life to illuminate a broader intellectual movement.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lalaa #ThisBlackGirlReads

    This is a well researched and impressive biography of activist and newspaperman William Monroe Trotter. Born in Boston he attended Harvard with dreams and aspirations of forging a new world where racial equality was prominent. Trotter’s views made him both influential as well as controversial. He spoke out against racial representation, politics and black civil rights. He began a career in real estate making him one of the wealthiest black men in New England. With his wealth, he launched the Gua This is a well researched and impressive biography of activist and newspaperman William Monroe Trotter. Born in Boston he attended Harvard with dreams and aspirations of forging a new world where racial equality was prominent. Trotter’s views made him both influential as well as controversial. He spoke out against racial representation, politics and black civil rights. He began a career in real estate making him one of the wealthiest black men in New England. With his wealth, he launched the Guardian using it as a platform for his activism. The book does a great job of telling a story of a man that has been left untold for so long. This is an informative, and well-written biography that offers context on how this prominent figure helped shape civil rights activism.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    Timely. For so many reasons. Happy I picked this up during Black History Month and finished it on Super Tuesday 2020. It gives a broader perspective on how I should vote, why my vote matters and how I, as a black woman, am viewed by the major political parties and activists in different socio-economic backgrounds. One question led me to this book: "Who were the leaders that took a more direct stance on race relations and demanded equality and equity during the Reconstruction era?" W.E.B. Dubois a Timely. For so many reasons. Happy I picked this up during Black History Month and finished it on Super Tuesday 2020. It gives a broader perspective on how I should vote, why my vote matters and how I, as a black woman, am viewed by the major political parties and activists in different socio-economic backgrounds. One question led me to this book: "Who were the leaders that took a more direct stance on race relations and demanded equality and equity during the Reconstruction era?" W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington were the only names whispered in a classroom setting and not much was really taught about them other than their work to show white folks at the time that black are capable of intelligence beyond white assumptions/admissions. Honestly (and unfortunately), they were a bit more class-focused and spoke up more for those on their socio-economic level (or had the means to achieve it.) Furthermore, they were pretty soft in pushing anti-lynching legislation and stopping the acceptance of segregation. Monroe Trotter was the fiery answer to what they lacked, even with his unsteady support from politicians, decision makers and other upper class black folks. He was radical because he was a man who constantly fought for the black working class in which he was not a part of for the majority of his life (not until the tragic tail end of it). However, what he wanted shouldn't have been conveyed as radical at all. He fought long and hard for all black folks to be seen as tax-paying, hard-working citizens of the U.S. who should be afforded the same chances as their white counterparts. He wanted white people to acknowledge the pure and raw humanity of black folks in order to eliminate the violence against them. Sound familiar? This book is not only detailed in how white-appeasing the NAACP was during its inception, but also painted a picture of how free and upper middle class black folks lived on the east coast after the Civil War well into the Reconstruction era and through the turn of the century. The political powers that be haven't changed ONE BIT. Both Republicans and Democrats then and now only care about two things: votes (that leads to power to uphold white supremacy) and money (the capitalistic foundation of sustaining white supremacy). Accounts in this book hold evidence of how the politicians at the time ignored calls against and solutions to the growing Jim Crow laws, the increase of lynching (especially against black veterans), violence against black folks, and voter suppression in the same way they ignore police brutality, mass incarceration, wage gaps and voter suppression today. I don't have the words to express how I felt while reading this. I wish I could articulate my sorrow and disappointment while rooting for Monroe Trotter and the possibility of real change for evolving black communities in the east and struggling black communities in the South and Midwest. His fight is still a fight today. That's a hard pill to swallow. Be warned: this book is class. It is dense; loaded with information. It reads like a history book. Filled with names upon names and committees upon committees trying to bring about change and opportunities for black folks in a society that saw (and still see) us as subhuman. No one can ever say black folks didn't try. No one can ever say black folks are currently not trying. But, maybe after reading this book and absorbing the history, black, brown and white folks alike can remember black folks like Monroe Trotter. Maybe they can admit that, just like their ancestors before them, they're just not paying attention.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Hahn

    Fascinating story of an African American political advocate and Guardian newspaper owner. Thank you for the discovery of a new story of Black history

  6. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Gabriele

    Very well written. A fascinating view of not only William Monroe Trotter but the time in which he lived. I grew up in Boston,so I was familiar with his name but didn't know much about him until I read the book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jarad

    “Like most of her neighbors, McKane wanted “the white people [to] realize that no matter how good their intentions are they cannot think in black.”...” This quote, from Kerri K. Greendige’s Black Radical, stands out as a pithy summary of this remarkable book. Black Radical is a thorough explanation of the life and legacy of William Monroe Trotter. Trotter was the founder of The Guardian, a Black radicalist newspaper and went toe to toe with some of the country’s most powerful figures as he fought “Like most of her neighbors, McKane wanted “the white people [to] realize that no matter how good their intentions are they cannot think in black.”...” This quote, from Kerri K. Greendige’s Black Radical, stands out as a pithy summary of this remarkable book. Black Radical is a thorough explanation of the life and legacy of William Monroe Trotter. Trotter was the founder of The Guardian, a Black radicalist newspaper and went toe to toe with some of the country’s most powerful figures as he fought for the rights of Black people. Although he experienced privilege in his upbringing and a good portion of his adult life, this Harvard educated man emphatically challenged the policies and practices that oppressed all Black people, particularly the genteel poor. Less iconic, now, than Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, he went to battle with both, the former for his accommodationist ideals and the latter for his elitist principles. The book goes into great detail of all Trotter endured to simply ensure Black Americans had basic human rights. We clearly don’t know enough about this man in American history, as he is rarely brought up as one of the co-founders of the Niagara Movement (Du Bois is usually the recognizable co-founder). Greenidge also does a good job of not heaping effusive praise on Trotter. She delves into some of his faults, frailties, and idiosyncrasies. Ultimately, Trotter was a flawed human being who did all he could to leave a lasting legacy of social justice. What really stood out to me in this book was the role faith played in the Black Radical politics of Trotter and his colleagues. Trotter was devout Christian and many of his comrades in the movement were Black radical preachers and pastors. This stands out to me because we see a lot of Black clerics who take on the assimilationist mindsets articulated by the white evangelical church. But I’m reminded, historically, Black clergy have been just as adamant as any in the constant battle for civil rights. I recommend this book to get a view of history that oft times goes unrecognized.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Robert Robertson

    Brings to life an important fighter in American history so its well worth reading. I personally would have preferred a more popular style of writing rather than academia. It would have been helpful to have a collection of photos from the period as well. Trotter fought for human rights for Afro Americans from the early 1900S to the the beginning of the 1930s - it is unfortunate he did not live to see the victories which his efforts and those of others of his time made possible. The author, Kerri Brings to life an important fighter in American history so its well worth reading. I personally would have preferred a more popular style of writing rather than academia. It would have been helpful to have a collection of photos from the period as well. Trotter fought for human rights for Afro Americans from the early 1900S to the the beginning of the 1930s - it is unfortunate he did not live to see the victories which his efforts and those of others of his time made possible. The author, Kerri K Greenidge, should be heartily commended for this important work to bring our history back - as it is highly relevant to the present. Picked up the book at the Public Library in a Black History month display.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tricia Sean

    I wanted to rate this book 5 stars so bad! I loved it and it was so needed. It honestly has altered some of my political outlooks because it speaks to modern racial politics in America. Trotter should none as unknown as he is and the answers for today may be found in yesterday. The authors repetitions and the short ended took away from an amazing volume that should be required black reading. It has some awesome research and gives a great picture of who Trotter was and his impact. To quote the in I wanted to rate this book 5 stars so bad! I loved it and it was so needed. It honestly has altered some of my political outlooks because it speaks to modern racial politics in America. Trotter should none as unknown as he is and the answers for today may be found in yesterday. The authors repetitions and the short ended took away from an amazing volume that should be required black reading. It has some awesome research and gives a great picture of who Trotter was and his impact. To quote the in the Acknowledgements from the author's grandfather sums it up best,... "If Trotter were alive, none of that would have happened."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leanne Ellis

    A true hero who deserves more recognition! Too often people think of Civil Rights as a struggle from the 60s but it was ongoing from day one of this country! Trotter spent his life to realize an anti-lynching federal law and enforcement of the 14th and 15th amendments! Sad to think voting rights are still an issue. But at least Congress is finally passing an anti-lynching law! So many horrible cases like that of Mary Turner are so unknown, as well as lesser forms of discrimination for graduates o A true hero who deserves more recognition! Too often people think of Civil Rights as a struggle from the 60s but it was ongoing from day one of this country! Trotter spent his life to realize an anti-lynching federal law and enforcement of the 14th and 15th amendments! Sad to think voting rights are still an issue. But at least Congress is finally passing an anti-lynching law! So many horrible cases like that of Mary Turner are so unknown, as well as lesser forms of discrimination for graduates of Harvard and Yale, who could not find jobs commiserate with their skills and education. If they did work at a white institution, the isolation and humiliation made it not worth it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    NICE BOOK.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Olms

    Great book

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

  14. 4 out of 5

    Liveright Publishing

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jared Morgan

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kris

  18. 5 out of 5

    Greg Hovanesian

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tina

  20. 4 out of 5

    Larry

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joe Strnad

  22. 5 out of 5

    Peter Kilkelly

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mark Whitaker

  24. 4 out of 5

    Don

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  26. 4 out of 5

    Luqdah

  27. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eve

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

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