Tag Archives: Boston

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.



Day Late, Dollar Short, Me & Chuck Berry

I’m a day late, but Happy Birthday to the great Chuck Berry.You know all the times you did unlikely shit and can’t prove it? Check out the dancing’ fool with her blue wig hat on her head. Yes! Done and documented.

To Early To Forgive, If Ever…

Still wrestling with the forgiveness question.

Sitting here listening to the statement read by Tsarnaev at his sentencing this afternoon apologizing to the dozen or more victims and survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing who chose to give victim impact statements. And to the lengthy responses of some of them to reporters outside the courthouse. (The court proceedings are neither televised nor broadcast.)

They expressed anger, disgust, dismissal, rejection of his contrition and apology. In their statements they told of their continuing struggles with the losses they suffered, the death of loved ones, or their own loss of limbs, hearing, partial sight, continuing trauma and more. Their lives will certainly never be the same.

While we in the general public have had two years to learn about many of those lives and their stories, I will admit that the immediate horror for me was hearing the description of the judge imposing the death penalty.

No one even brought up the concept of forgiveness. I am all the more uneasy about the Charleston professions of forgiveness to the disembodied video feed of the murderer less than 72 hours after the massacre. Yes, I understand how offering forgiveness might open a path to moving forward, but I’m thinking two things at the moment.

One is that, while people should certainly be open to expressing a religious sentiment wherever they wish, perhaps the spiritual task of letting go of the burden of hatred deserves a sacred space rather than a courthouse.

The other is that I just can’t get past the dynamic of black people forgiving racist murder, at all, but particularly before the bodies of their slaughtered parents and children have even been buried. A courtroom full of white people of all religious persuasions stood able to move through horror and begin to reclaim their lives without taking responsibility for the perp’s soul. Immediate forgiveness just does not feel to me to be the act of a free person. It feels like a theological construct that removes some of the agency of righteous rage that fights off helpless despair and depression. Perhaps it is a way of repudiating the devil and all his works, an act intended to reduce and marginalize the psychic hold of the killer on their minds. I get that. But I wonder, not standing in their shoes, if I could bear the bitterness, the ashes, of those words in my mouth.

The grace of forgiveness might or might not enter into the hearts of some of those in the Boston court today. Some might even choose to invite it. To assume they are called to that goal seems an added burden.


My Book on Maria W. Stewart

A nice shout-out for my Stewart book; a bit of call and response:



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Toni Morrison, Nobel Laureate

21 Years Ago Today Toni Morrison Received The Nobel Prize for Literature. 10343017_10152109245264058_8664006753028362288_n

A FEW years before that, I organized a program in her honor at the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill in Boston, when she came to town to receive an honorary degree at Harvard. I was the curator at the Meeting House, and was able to arrange Toni Morrison’s visit thanks to her close friend, Florence Ladd.

There was a line of people around the block. Camille Cosby was there, sociologist Kenneth Clark, other notables. We ran out of space and sadly had to turn some away; fortunately we made a video. Morrison said she would be pleased to attend, but that she would be too tired, after all the Harvard events that day, to make any remarks beyond acknowledging the gathering. So we had a symposium on the raised podium area with excellent talks by Marcia Lloyd, Clyde Taylor, and others.

I gave the welcome, and Museum board chairman, the late Henry Hampton, spoke. I also made that the occasion for the donation of a signed first edition of Phillis Wheatley’s poems. It had originally been offered to Morrison, but I lobbied for it to go to the Museum and she VERY graciously agreed. Student intern, Kelly Stupple, received the volume for the collection.

AND THEN: when Morrison came forward to deliver the few words we expected, she went to the podium, said how moved she was by the evening, and that she would like to read something she was working on (!). She read for about ten gorgeous minutes. Followed by an extended standing ovation, of course. The feeling in the room was wonderfully festive and congenial.

Some months later, when I read her new book as soon as it came out, I discovered, along with others, that we had the incredible honor of hearing the beautiful final section of “JAZZ” as it was still coming into being.

54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment

On this day in 1863 the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment marched through Boston to the waterfront where they shipped off for South Carolina.

[Account of departure is from The Liberator, 5 June 1863. Story about Biddle, who enlisted at age 17, is an unidentified clipping, probably from a Boston newspaper.]






Another Child Shot In Boston, MA


A 13-year-old boy was in critical condition late Friday night after being shot while walking to church for choir practice on Humboldt Avenue in Roxbury, his mother and ­police said.

Gabriel Clarke, the 13-year-old Roxbury boy who was shot in the stomach as he walked to church Friday evening, is in critical but stable condition today and is expected to recover, according to police and his pastor.

“I honestly believe this is nothing short of a miracle,” said the Rev. Nigel G. David Sr., the pastor at their church.

Damn, damn, damn. I do not want to hear about miracles, and of course the shooter must be caught. For starters, I want to hear how the city and state plan to deal with entire communities filled with generations of citizens suffering post traumatic stress syndrome. 

How can any child be expected to function academically while living under siege. And while knowing full well that the larger world has no interest in keeping them safe from deadly harm.

I want to know when the emergency committee of experts from schools, courts, hospitals, law enforcement, media, social service agencies, etc. will be convened with major funding, and not dismissed until city planning groups, university-school partnerships, job training and hiring commitments, lab schools, tutoring programs, etc, etc. charged with turning Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan into a national and international model for ways to turn throw-away minority neighborhoods into safe, functioning communities have done the job. (Add writing/editing skills to that list.)

And enough of expecting the clergy to lead the way. Some fine people, no doubt, but politicians cannot palm off the responsibility onto a group that, here in Boston, has been spinning its wheels for decades. 

An active social gospel in the Neighborhood House tradition– with solid counseling, medical and dental clinics, meals-on-wheels, pre-school, child care, and other services– can always be a useful part of a larger vision, but we are not going to pray away an on-going emergency. The house is on fire, dammit!

Handel’s MESSIAH


Listening (radio) to Handel and Haydn Society perform Messiah at Symphony Hall. My mother always took (ok, at first, dragged) me to an annual performance, until I finally caught on. Blessings for her persistence.

I have only a faint memory of my grandmother, Geraldine Hazard Brisbane, who studied voice and organ at the NEC, singing “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” with a Worcester, MA, chorus performance — not H&H.

So, even listening at home, do you feel the urge to stand for the HC?