Monthly Archives: April 2016

Trotter and The Guardian Newspaper



I’M glad the Boston Globe published my Letter To The Editor, today. But, I’m sorry they chose to delete the paragraph with a bit of Trotter bio, although printing other letters of equal original length. Here’s the full text:

“It would be a demonstration of his professionalism for David Jacobs to re-name his newly launched neighborhood newspaper, The Boston Guardian. (“Publisher criticized for using name of historic African-American paper,” April 26).

William Monroe Trotter’s Boston newspaper, The Guardian, published from 1901 until the 1950s, stands as a major landmark in the history of African-American journalism. It was a civic, political, and cultural force in Boston, throughout New England, and nationally. 

Trotter, a Phi Beta Kappa Harvard graduate and member of the Niagara Movement, the forerunner to the NAACP, was both an intellectual and an activist. Locally, to give just one example, he led the protest against the Boston showing of the viciously racist 1915 film, Birth of A Nation. He was arrested in a scuffle when he and ten other protestors refused to leave the lobby of the Tremont Theater.

Nationally, Trotter and his newspaper fought against racism on many fronts, from lobbying for anti-lynching bills in Congress to powerful reporting on the 1931 trials of The Scottsboro Boys. 

Invited to the White House to discuss President Wilson’s segregationist policies, Trotter argued his case so forcefully that Wilson took offense and asked him to leave.

Knowing what he does now about his paper’s name, it’s bizarre and unbecoming for Mr. Jacobs to persist with a Guardian published for the wealthy Back Bay and Beacon Hill neighborhoods. Let us hope that his regard for history, and a thoughtful recognition of Boston’s complex racial dynamics, past and present, will lead him to re-think his “Heck no” response to changing the name of his paper.”


W. E. B. Du Bois attests to the influence and effectiveness of the Boston Guardian. In reference to W. M. Trotter’s opposition to B. T. Washington, he wrote:

This opposition began to become vocal in 1901 when two men, Monroe Trotter, Harvard 1895, and George Forbes, Amherst 1895, began the publication of the Boston Guardian. The Guardian was bitter, satirical, and personal; but it was earnest, and it published facts. It attracted wide attention among colored people; it circulated among them all over the country; it was quoted and discussed. I did not wholly agree with the Guardian, and indeed only a few Negroes did, but nearly all read it and were influenced by it.

Trotter’s wife, the former Geraldine Pindell, was equally committed to the paper and its ideals. She died in the 1918 influenza epidemic.



Princeton Keeps Wilson School Name (For Now)


I suppose I can (very grudgingly) see keeping the name on the WW School. It is presumed to be a locus of discussion, debate, lively exchange of ideas of all sorts, a place for thinking about stuff. The character of the School can transcend the narrowness of the man in his historical moment.

It does seem a bit much, though, to ask a “woke” student to reside in a building named for the old supremacist. I’d say agitate to change the name of Wilson College and any other buildings. He doesn’t have to have his name all over the campus.

After all, Harvard had a president named Hoar, but there will never be a residential House named for him.

1000 Strong Against Henry Moore Sculpture


I saw the headline, looked at the photo, and thought maybe they were protesting the sculpture as the abstraction of a splayed, truncated female figure. But who are these people? And what in the world is going on?

And why does my bewilderment have a tinge of nervousness along with a slight lump of sadness in my throat? Partly because I love Henry Moore’s work, certainly, but also at the thought that this could represent yet another front in the brutal “culture wars” that are an element of our current toxic political moment.

President Obama: The Adult In The Room

For generations to come, this statement will be used as an exemplar and a touchstone in discussing the toxic political dynamic of our day.