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Stephen R. Fox

James Monroe Trotter was born on February 7, 1842, in Grand Gulf, Mississippi, the son of a white man, Richard S. Trotter, and his slave Letitia. When Richard Trotter was married in 1854, Letitia, her son, and two younger daughters from the union were sent to live in the free city of Cincinnati. Here Trotter attended the Gilmore school for freed slaves and worked as a hotel bellboy and as cabin boy on a riverboat. Later he briefly attended academies in Hamilton and Athens, Ohio, but according to his son he was largely self-educated. When the Civil War came, he was a schoolteacher in Pike County, southwestern Ohio.

In 1863 Trotter was recruited by black lawyer and activist John Mercer Langston and traveled to Boston to join the Fifty fifth Massachusetts Regiment a black unit with mostly white officers Trotter rose through the ranks ...