Minta Bosley Allen Trotman

Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biography of Minta Bosley Allen Trotman, 1875-1949

By Nancy Page Fernandez, Ph.D.

A prominent Brooklyn clubwoman, Minta Bosley Allen Trotman contributed her time and leadership to promoting the social welfare and civic participation of black Americans as well as to the preservation of African American and African material culture. She was born February 13, 1875, in Nashville, Tennessee, the only child of John Beal Bosley and Catherine Harding Bosley. Her father, a successful businessman, owned a livery and dealt in real estate while her mother kept house. Minta attended Fisk University from 1889 to 1893, completing the Normal Studies curriculum. In 1895, at the age of twenty, she married Henry W. Allen. The couple soon welcomed children: Catherine (1896), Marian (1899) and Henry (abt 1903). Mr. Allen's income as a railroad mail agent supported the growing household well; in 1900 he earned $1200 a year, significantly more than the $450 national average income of the time. He died tragically in a train accident two days before Christmas 1903.

The widowed Minta Allen retreated with her children to France before moving to Brooklyn, New York, around 1908. She married W.F. (William Frederick) Trotman, a successful real estate agent, on February 22, 1911. Mr. Trotman represented W.E.B Du Bois in New York property matters, and served the Brooklyn community as a Board Member for the Y.M.C.A. Minta soon established herself as an active member and leader in the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), Brooklyn Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) and Brooklyn Urban League.

Over the next twenty years Minta held many leadership positions, actively raised funds, participated in national conferences, and lectured locally and regionally. She served as a delegate to the NACW national meeting in 1912. Minta attended with her friend and colleague Addie Waites Hunton [LINK] who was active in the Equal Suffrage League, an organization of "colored women suffragists" associated with the NACW. That same year the Trotman's helped Hunton host a gathering at their home to honor Carrie W. Clifford [LINK]--a prominent author, NACW leader, and suffrage activist. In 1912 Minta Trotman also served on the Board of the YWCA, which employed Hunton as an outreach organizer, and later in 1917 provided leadership to kick-off fundraising for a new building that would provide space for more programs for girls as well as housing for single working women. Minta also supported women's causes through her work with the Urban League. She served on the Membership Committee of the Urban League in 1915 and 1916, and then as a member of the Executive Board. When the organization determined to create a program for girls, Minta became a founding member and first president of the Urban League's Big Sister Club. She worked for better health for the black community through service on the Board of Directors of the Circle for Negro Relief.

In 1917 New York voters passed woman suffrage. Minta became president of the Woman's Civic League of Brooklyn, where she spoke to the "manifold opportunities afforded to women through their right of suffrage." The New York Age, Oct. 19, 2018, reported "[t]hat the colored women of this borough are keenly alive to their political rights was evidenced by the splendid attendance and the enthusiasm shown." The Civic League's charter members included many former suffragists. Under Minta's leadership, the group recruited new members and educated women about the suffrage movement and the benefits of the vote.

African and African American culture also attracted Minta's interest. In her role with the NACW, she worked first to preserve the Frederick Douglas house and later to raise funds to pay off the mortgage and renovate the building. She was also a longtime member and served as president of the Foreign Study Club and worked on the Executive Committee that organized the 1927 Pan African Conference. Minta collected African folk art which she donated to her alma mater Fisk University. She shared a love of Africana with her eldest daughter, Catherine Allen Latimer, who in 1920 became the first African American librarian hired at the New York Public Library. In 1924 she began a clipping file on African American life and by 1927 Latimer was in charge of the Negro History Department of the 135th St. Branch library which included the Schomburg Collection. She maintained the clipping file until her retirement due to illness in 1946, and the resource remained active to 1985. Latimer, in person and through her legacy, assisted countless writers and scholars studying African American life.

In her later years Minta enjoyed travel and other leisure pursuits. She remained attentive to community issues, however, and in 1934 joined other prominent NAACP members in writing to ask the Board of Directors for prompt action against attacks on W.E.B. Du Bois. She passed unexpectedly of a heart attack on May 3, 1949.


The author thanks DeLisa Minor Harris, Reference Librarian for Special Collections, Fisk University, for her generous assistance.

Allen, Henry (1900) in U.S. Registry of Civil, Military and Naval Service, 1863-1959. Provo: UT: Operations, Inc. 2014.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1912-1949.
"Afro-American Notes," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 14, 1912, p.44.
"Reception to Honor Mrs. Clifford," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 22, 1912, p.2.
"Seek Funds for Negro Home," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 12, 1917, p.22.
"Mrs. W. Trotman, Headed Big Sisters," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 4, 1949, p.23.

Catherine Bosley Allen Latimer (1896-1948), posted by Bob Sink, NYPL Librarians Blog.

Du Bois Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.
Memorandum from W.E.B. Du Bois to Lawrence A. Hautz, January 8, 1952.

Letter from NAACP members to NAACP Board of Directors, Jan. 5, 1934, MS 312.


Fisk University Alumni Directory, 1930

Latimer, Catherine Allen. "Where can I get material on the Negro?" The Crisis, June 1924, p.164-165.

Negro Star (Wichita, Kansas), 1927.
"Fourth Pan-African Congress," Negro Star, July 1, 1927, p.1.

New York Age, 1912-1949.
"Brooklyn Notes," New York Age, Feb. 15, 1912, p.7.
"News of Greater New York," New York Age, Sept. 26, 1912, p.3.
"Urban League Holds its Annual Meeting," New York Age, Dec. 9, 1915, p.2.
"Urban League Notes," New York Age, Dec. 14, 1916, p.8.
"Brooklyn Y.W.C.A. Begins its Building Campaign," New York Age, May 10, 1917, p.1.
"League to Make Survey of Housing Conditions," New York Age, Jan. 19, 1918, p.2.
"Big Sister Club Meets," New York Age, Jan. 19, 1918, p.8.
"Woman's Civic League," New York Age, Oct. 19, 1918, p.8.
"Women Plan Big Reconstruction Program," New York Age, May 17, 1919, p.1.
"The Circle for Negro Relief Holds Third Annual Meeting," New York Age, Jan. 22, 1921, p.2.
"Women Attend Session of National Council," New York Age, Dec. 17, 1927, p.2.
"Club Women Meet at Waldorf Astoria," New York Age, Dec. 24, 1927, p.6.
"Mrs. Bethune was Guest of Foreign Study Club," New York Age, Dec. 30, 1930, p.2.
"Friends Mourn Mrs. Trotman," New York Age, May 4, 1949, p.15.

New York Times, 1949
"Minta Bosley Trotman," New York Times, May 4, 1949, p.29.

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