Race Segregation at Washington





Newspaper clipping regarding the Trotter incident at the White House.


Library of Congress
Wilson Papers, Series 4, 152A Reel 231, Manuscript Division


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum




Digital copy acquired from federal archives by previous WWPL Archivist, Heidi Hackford.



The rebuke administered by President Wilson yesterday to the spokesman of a negro delegation was so thoroughly just and deserved that it will be approved by the vast majority of Americans irrespective of political affiliations or sectional lines. The delegation asked and was granted the courtesy of a hearing. Mr. Wilson listened patiently to the recitation of a “prepared speech" by the offending spokesman. It is evident that his own conclusions, stated in answer to the harangue of the agitator, were neither patiently nor courteously received. When the man Trotter became offensive the President very promptly and properly cut the interview short.

While agitators of the Trotter stripe and certain of their political inciters will doubtless strive to make capital of it, the episode will react to the sole injury of the Trotter cause. Race instinct has quickened wonderfully throughout the white North of recent years. Insistent and offensive demands for racial social equality by self-styled negro leaders, and the attempts at offensive assertion of their imagined "rights,” are largely responsible for the race clashes recorded in more than a few Northern States. In a few cities, notably in Boston and Washington, these so-called leaders have been "humored" for sentimental or political reasons. In Boston, only the other day, a book of classical folksongs, compiled for use in the public schools, provoked a violent protest from Boston blacks, because one of the old songs contained the word “nigger,” though the song is doubtless loved and chanted by thousands of negroes. And the school authorities obligingly ordered the song "eliminated." In Washington, where Republican administrations long catered to the “negro vote," the presence of negro undesirables in and out of the Federal service is shown by the police records. Race friction began there long before Mr. Wilson entered the White House. Epidemics of negro crimes more than once have produced mass meetings of protest among the white citizens. Conditions caused by mixture of the races in the Federal departments were complained of, and were giving trouble years before this administration. In spite of the negro delegation's denials, the existence of race friction before the segregation order of which they complain was a fact established past dispute. 84930

The segregation effected during this administration can be justified on any one of a number of grounds. It makes for efficiency in the public service, and for better racial relations. It has come we believe and [is here] to stay, for the good of both [whites] and in spite of the rantings of negro agitators who seek political preferment via the race issue, or racial social equality, or both. The right adjustment of race relations in this country is earnestly desired by whites and intelligent negroes as well. We do not believe that the agitators of Trotter's stripe can prevent it, though they may, by continued beating of the racial tomtoms, provoke further race friction and hostility in the Northern States.

So far as yesterday's episode at the White House is concerned, however, the question of segregation bears only incidentally upon what happened to Trotter. It appears from the published accounts that he went there to make himself unpleasant—and succeeded. The same rebuke, we have no doubt, would have been administered to any man, whatever his race, who resorted to the same offensive tactics. This is, we believe, the first episode of the kind that has occurred during Mr. Wilson's administration. So that Trotter seems to have established his own inferiority to the thousands of others who have been given hearing at the White House during that period.

Original Format

Newspaper Article




Unknown, “Race Segregation at Washington,” c. 1914 November, CS25, Race and Segregation Collection, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.