booker t. washington portrait

Trotter & Trotterism

New York Age
September 1905

by Emmett J. Scott
Tuskegee, Alabama

This editorial was written in response to some of the negative tactics employed by principal figures in the Niagara Movement, who opposed Booker T. Washington's philosophy and Tuskegee's emphasis on work and discipline. The Niagara Movement was co-opted into the NAACP in 1909.

On the Boston Church Riot of 1903

The New York Age has, up to this time, been silent concerning the so-called Niagara Movement, for the reason that we did not want to prejudge the movement nor seek to influence the utterance of other journals upon this subject. From the first we have had our suspicions about the original objects of the organization, as we knew they would be, by the main mover in the organization. The head and front of this organization has now revealed himself and his objects, and the move, which he has now made, shows that he has not wisdom enough to protect his friends, when such wisdom might help his cause, the mainspring and moving spirit in this organization is none other than Monroe Trotter of Boston, Mass. In a recent issue of this paper he reveals the plot and plan of "The Niagara Movement." Since this meeting was held on foreign shores, in Canada, Monroe Trotter has celebrated the anniversary of the famous Boston Church Riot. Two years ago the editor of The Age happened to be present at the meeting which it was attempted to be broken up by the mob tactics directed by Trotter and his gang.

In connection with the celebration of this riot he comes out boldly and frankly says that the "Church Riot Movement" and the "Niagara Movement" are one and the same thing he says that the Niagara Movement is the outgrowth of the Church riot. That is, he claims the two are one and inseparable, and on this basis he asks for the support and confidence of the race. Further, in a recent magazine article, Dr. DuBois himself says that Trotter is the "backbone," whatever that means, of the Niagara Movement.

In order that our readers and the members of the race generally may not now lose sight of the connection of the two movements we must remind them that a meeting was planned to take place in the Columbus Avenue Zion Church, Boston, in 1903, and a regular program had been planned. A few hours before the meeting was to be held (1) Monroe Trotter, or some of his fellow-conspirators, went into the church and scattered pepper in and around the sacred chancel; Monroe trotter and his gang of fellow-conspirators were instrumental in bringing into the church a gang of dissolute and drunken women from the streets; they then stationed others of their conspirators in various parts of the church so that they might create a disturbance and drown the speakers' voices; notwithstanding the presence of refined women and many children, a deliberate crime and insult to the race was planned and partly carried out (if Trotter had been truly brave he would have selected a White church to perpetrate this crime), after Trotter and his main followers were arrested they tried, in the courts and in every conceivable manner and by all kinds of falsehoods to get out of the difficulty but he and his ignorant followers were compelled to serve time in jail.

the real object of the Niagara Movement is not to help the race but to break down the helpful influence of one member of the race

In order to show that the real object of the Niagara Movement is not to help the race but to break down the helpful influence of one member of the race, we have but to mention one or two facts.

First, there is not a plank in their address to the country but what has been sent out in almost the identical words time and again during the last thirty years.

Second, throughout the platform they say they are in existence mainly to bring about free discussion of all subjects, and yet Trotter was not invited to the Columbus Avenue Church meeting, he was not on the program to speak, and it was not presumed that he would speak. And then, besides the meeting in Zion Church was called for the very purpose of hearing free speech and the main mover in the opposition to prevent free speech and free discussion, through the medium of a mob, was Monroe Trotter. One of the professed objects of the new "movement" was to secure personal liberty freedom of action. In accepting the invitation to dine with a distinguished merchant outside of the South, in the way he has been doing for fifteen years, Dr. Washington was doing the very thing which the Niagara Movement professes to be in favor of; but Trotter, the real leader of this movement, was so narrow and evil minded that the could not even keep silent and could not refrain from putting all of this friends in an awkward position because of his personal malice.

But this is not all: we give to the public now, what we should never have divulged, and what has not been published before, had not Monroe Trotter boldly said the Church riot and the Niagara Movement are one and the same thing. Since this is proclaimed to be true, we must let the race understand about another outrage in which Trotter was concerned. Immediately after the Church riot a number of Cambridge citizens, in order to show their disgust, invited Dr. Washington to speak at a reception given in his honor.

Although Monroe Trotter and some of his followers were under indictment to keep the peace, they also planned to break up this Cambridge meeting. Several preparatory meetings were held and it was finally decided in Trotter's house that when the meeting should be in full sway one of their number would light a bonfire in a near-by vacant log, that another in the church, should yell "fire" and that a third should cut the electric wire, thereby throwing the church into darkness and confusion. This program of wrath, disorder and possibly murder, which Trotter and his gang had planned came near succeeding. At their final meeting to perfect their arrangements an Afro-American attorney of Boston (William Henry Lewis), who had learned of their scheme, threw open the door, walked into the midst of the band and gave them to understand in no Sunday school language that he had the names of every man and knew all the details of their plans. He further told them that if a single one of them attempted to carry out the plan, he would have them all in jail in a few hours. At this revelation the little gang was thunder-struck and scattered in every direction; not one of them dared to shows his face at the meeting. This is another sample of their bravery. It was whispered by many and believed at the time by not a few that DuBois had a hand in these Church riots, and now lo and behold Trotter, himself, has boldly declared that the Church riots and the Niagara Movement are connected.

Now, according to Trotter, the Niagara Movement sympathizes with and expects to pursue the same policy adopted by them as regards to these two meetings. Still more recently, and still more to the point in the direction of proving that the men connected with this "movement" have nothing in view but exhibit their personal dislike and jealousy toward one individual of the race, we call attention of the Afro-American public to the recent disgraceful alliance of Mr. Trotter through his paper with the vilest character of Southern newspapers in trying to breed a spirit among the Southern White people in the South that would result in the intimidation or assassination of Dr. Washington himself or in the burning of the property of the Tuskegee school. No Southern paper, however vile, has gone further than Trotter in this respect; in fact, no one could read Trotter's vile sheet without seeing that he had seconded every move and every suggestion that the lowest type of Southern White papers have made. Not a single one of the Southern papers which abused Dr. Washington for accepting Mr. Wanamaker's invitation at Saratoga printed as much abusive matter, or put it in such disgusting form, as did Trotter's paper, the organ of the Niagara Movement.

Another disgraceful feature, in connection with this recent out-break of Trotter in connection with the vile portion of the Southern press, consists in the fact that Dr. DuBois himself, has been in Boston during the greater part of the summer, and that he and Trotter have worked hand in glove in connection with the carrying out of all of these plans. The race, as we know it, is not yet ready to follow the criminal and inciter to riots in churches nor to follow the vilest portion of the press of the South in abetting assassination and destruction of school property. If Trotter had at least common-sense, notwithstanding his own personal dislikes and his own personal mental weakness, he would at least protect his friends that are trying to work with and use him, by ceasing to put them in awkward positions, as he is constantly doing.

In saying what we have, we do not overlook the fact that good and well-meaning individuals are interested in this so-called new movement, but we again assert that the race will not have confidence in any set of men who select a man like Trotter for their leader and guide.

As disagreeable as the task is, we give the bare facts to our readers and to the race. Trotter is using, or is trying to use, the names of a few respectable men behind whom to hide his criminal and riotous record and disposition. Those connected with his movement must now reaffirm their allegiance to Trotter and his methods or throw him overboard. There is no middle ground. They ask the race to follow them, on which platform do they ask it?

We have said their program is insincere and that petty spite against one individual of the race actuates them. We repeat it.

In this editorial we do not, in proof of this assertion, elaborate the fact that Trotter's chief aid of Dr. DuBois, who does not vote anywhere in this country and who plays no part in the politics of the race.

They consider themselves, for the most part, too high to break down the influence of one individual of the race.

Another one of the aides of Trotter is the owner of one of the largest barbershops in Atlanta, where no Afro-American need ask for accommodation. We refer to Mr. A. F. Herndon. Monroe Trotter's followers in this movement are with one or two exceptions, men who never attend the interests of the race are concerned, and who have not contributed to legal contests for the rights of-the race. They consider themselves, for the most part, too high to mingle with the race; too intelligent and "refined'' to come into bodies where so-called common individuals are.

There is hardly a person connected with the Niagara Movement who can be pointed to as having taken the lead in a single movement for the betterment of the race. The only service they perform in behalf of the race are the making of speeches and the passing of resolutions. They are rarely seen in Negro churches or Sunday schools where they could be of service to the race and community. We repeat, the race will not follow such leadership, it will not exalt or follow criminal characters.

In justice to several well-intentioned men, whose names were connected with the Niagara movement, we ought to say that they were innocent of many facts before they attended the meeting. In the future we shall hold to a strict account those who have respect for Trotter and Trotterism, quibble as they may. The fact remains that they must stand by or tear themselves away from such influences. The Age has always stood by and supported every effort in behalf of the race, whether it agreed with it or not. We stand ready to help the Niagara movement whenever it can be shown that it has unselfish and worthy motives.