The Guardian editor, Du Bois wrote, was 'a clean-hearted, utterly unselfish man whom I admired despite his dogged and unreasoning prejudices.' That man comes through in Black Radical, Kerri K. Greenidge’s spirited biography, an ardent and mostly approving account of Trotter’s life that nevertheless conveys the more vexing elements of his personality ... Black Radical opens up a rich seam of inquiry that persists to this day, about the tug-of-war between reformers and radicals, and whether victories that seem purely symbolic at first can ripple out into real-world effects later on.
Black Radical frames Trotter as a hero for today’s generation of black activists: exuding pride in black excellence, raging at white supremacy, distrusting of white liberals, uncompromising in his ideals ... Black Radical is most valuable for charting Trotter’s extraordinary political journey ... Greenidge writes with a sledgehammer, pounding on her arguments about Trotter’s radical independence and populist appeal ... Black Radical could have probed deeper, however, on the personality behind the politics ... As Greenidge documents, Trotter’s stubborn militancy both alienated potential allies and enhanced his popular standing. But it is not entirely clear why Trotter was so perpetually prickly.
[Trotter's] legacy presents a challenge to those who seek change today: is compromise a necessary evil of any social movement, or is it the original sin of collective action? ... One of the most satisfying accomplishments of Black Radical is the way that Greenidge situates Trotter’s biography in the broader story of liberal New England.
Rejecting both the accommodationist politics of Booker T. Washington and the 'talented tenth' elitism of W. E. B. Dubois, and challenging the complacency of northern liberals who preferred to see racism as a uniquely southern problem, Trotter resists easy categorization. Yet as Greenidge argues in her beautifully realized biography, Trotter’s theory and practice of Black liberation anticipated Black Lives Matter and the contemporary focus on institutional rather than individual racism. Essential reading for our times.
Greenidge situates the protest leader and agitator in time and place, showing his unflinching public outrage in advancing grassroots racial justice and full citizenship rights ... Greenidge's meticulously documented, free-flowing narrative draws telling comparisons between the opening of the 20th and 21st centuries to reorient the career of black radicalism, showing how Trotter developed the art of public protest and civil disobedience. A must-read for both scholars and general readers interested in the civil rights movement.
Tufts University professor Greenidge debuts with a vital, deeply researched biography ... Greenidge writes with urgency and clarity while synthesizing a wealth of archival material. Her eye-opening account elegantly traces Trotter’s rise and fall and uncovers early 20th-century Boston as 'the center of radical African American politics.'